CLIMATE JUSTICE BLOCKADE OF CONFERENCE OF EU BUSINESS LOBBYISTS IN BRUSSELS: PEPPER GAS AND ARRESTS

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28 october 2009

Activists in European Quarter in Brussels: Our Climate, Not Your Business!

Climate Justice Action 28th October 2009


This morning around 9:00am dozens of costumed activists have blocked all access to the Charlemagne Building in Brussels, next to the Commission’s HQ, where Business Europe, the EU lobby of bosses and industrialists, is supposed to hold their conference on Copenhagen and climate change and hear Barroso self-congratulate himself on green capitalism. Belgian activists retort: Our Climate Ain’t None of Your Business!

[A lire en Français: LUTTONS POUR LA JUSTICE SOCIALE ET CLIMATIQUE!]

10:20 update – Riot cops have thrown tear gases inside building, forcing some activists to flee. 20 arrests have so far being made. Activists have held the Charlemagne building for two hours.

[Please find pictures on http://www.flickr.com/photos/38063808@N06/
See also article on European Voice and additional pictures on CeMAB.be]

For over one and a half hours, hundreds of corporate lobbyists wishing to attend the annual BusinessEurope conference were prevented from entering the Charlemagne building this morning.

The Climate action group Climate Alarm!, consisting of activists from Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Germany, blocked the main entrance to the conference.

Eight activists physically blocked revolving doors and shut side doors with chains. Another group attached loud alarms to balloons which then floated to the ceiling. The group then disrupted the lobby area for over an hour and a half, playing music and shouting slogans: ALERT! OUR CLIMATE NOT YOUR BUSINESS! CLIMATE JUSTICE NOW!

The blockade only fell after one of the chains was cut, but even then it took a long time for the police to make the entrance area open for participants. There was a lot of media, photo journalists and television cameras.

The police first arrested a man who had nothing to do with the action. In the end, another 25 activists were arrested. One of the detained individuals later escaped police custody.

BusinessEurope is the biggest industry lobby group in Brussels and unites many of the most polluting sectors. Corporate sponsors include Shell, Arcelor Mittal, BASF and Daimler, who are all known for their anti-climate lobbying.

The police used excessive violence by spraying pepper spray into the closed cubicles of the revolving doors in which people had voluntarily trapped themselves. The police did this after they had already cut the chains of one door.

More climate action will follow!

Climate Alarm!
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Arrests at climate protest

By Jennifer Rankin, European Voice, 28.10.2009 / 12:41 CET

Activists disrupt business conference on climate change.

Police arrested 24 climate activists this morning after they disrupted a business conference on climate change being held in a European Commission building.

Activists from the Climate Alarm group arrived at the Charlemagne building just before 9am, blocked the main doors with chains and barred people from entering and leaving the building. On the street outside, campaigners banged drums and raised a banner with the message 'Our climate, not your business'.

Today's one-day conference is organised by BusinessEurope, the employers' federation, and sponsored by companies including Shell, ArcelorMittal, BASF and Lafarge.

The doors re-opened at 10.30am after police broke up the demonstration. Minor scuffles took place near the entrance when activists refused to move away from the doors and eventually pepper-spray was used to disperse them. Police arrested 24 people (20 men and four women). The police had not been informed beforehand of the protest.

The action was organised by Climate Alarm, a Belgian-Dutch group that is not affiliated to any of the big climate campaign groups. The group was founded in the summer and its members come from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

Anna Martin, a spokeswoman for Climate Alarm, said the group objected to the fact that the Commission was hosting the conference for free. “There is way too much corporate lobbying and business should not have a role in climate talks,” she said.

José Manuel Barroso, the Commission president, will today make a speech at the conference, while two commissioners, Stavros Dimas (environment) and Günter Verheugen (industry) are also taking part in debates. Senior commission civil servants, business leaders, one NGO and one trade unionist are also speaking on the panels.

The conference started despite the disruption outside, although it was delayed by 15 minutes. Jos Delbeke, deputy director-general at the Commission's environment department, was late for his panel discussion because of the protest. Some speakers were able to get in via a back entrance through the underground car-park.

Outside, the delegates left standing in the autumn sunshine said that it was fair that the group could protest, although some disagreed with their methods.

“I don't see how this helps with the discussion,” said Christian Taillebois of the European Atomic Forum (Foratom), which represents the nuclear industry. “They could register, they could make their voices heard in a different way, in a more respectful way.”

One delegate from the European Parliament asked: “If it is not the business of business, then who is going to pay?”

But others thought that the protesters had a fair point. “I can understand that some more concerned citizens get angry when they see the positions taken by BusinessEurope,” said Claude Turmes, a Green Luxembourgeois MEP who is speaking at the conference.

“I think it is good,” said one civil servant who works in the building. “The only problem is that there is not enough media here.”

A spokesman from BusinessEurope declined to comment.

European Voice is one of the media partners of this event.


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