The world climate march was not held in Paris. Instead, thousands of protesters gathered at the Place de la Republique on Sunday 29th November, resulting in fierce clashes with security forces, and over 200 arrests.
The attacks that hit Paris on Friday 13th November and the aftermath of the state of emergency that was extended to three months on the 20th of November, have led to all protests being banned during COP21. According to data collected by COP21Horizon, 100% of NGOs are in favor of citizens flouting the ban, but this figure hides a more balanced reality.
Unanimity appears to be total, but many NGOs have never explicitly called for protesters to break the law, and most of them had anticipated the ban. “We understand the decision, but it is very important for civil society to remain actively involved; it will be just have to be done differently” explains a WWF representative.
Alternative ways to protest
In order to get around the rules, organizers have been forced to be creative to find alternative ways of protesting that are still legal under the state of emergency. One such example is march4me.org which put Parisians in touch with other marchers in the world, so that someone could march in their name on Sunday 29th November. In the absence of marchers, Avaaz lined up over 10 000 pairs of shoes on la Place de la Republique. Alternatiba, an international movement promoting awareness of climate change issues, gathered thousands of people to create a human chain along the exact route the march was supposed to take, thus denouncing the ban while at the same time respecting it.
Parisians' response to the state of emergency which banned marching
These alternatives are only a temporary solution for NGOs; they’re not the answer.They solve the problem but are not to everyone’s liking. “We cannot deny that there will be less impact. We understand that the context is different, but we find it curious that Christmas markets are still allowed to go ahead. It shows different political priorities,” explains Juliette Rousseau, who coordinates Climat21, a coalition of more than a hundred organizations. Other NGOs like the DAL, a housing rights organization, are now calling for people to protest despite the state of emergency, while the real position of environmental NGOs remains ambiguous.