Holding protests amid state-of-emergency laws in Paris

Climate demonstrators face new obstacle as gathering of more than two people is illegal

Yellow paint, symbolising the sun and its rays, is seen around the Arc de Triomphe during a protest on Champs Elysees avenue on the sidelines of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), in Paris, France. Photograph: Greepeace/Reuters

Yellow paint, symbolising the sun and its rays, is seen around the Arc de Triomphe during a protest on Champs Elysees avenue on the sidelines of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), in Paris, France. Photograph: Greepeace/Reuters

 

If more than two people gather on a street in Paris, it constitutes an illegal gathering. This is one of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles facing the international coalition of campaigns in Paris as they navigate France’s strict state-of-emergency laws.

As COP21 climate summit lumbers to a close and government delegations argue over the final wording of a document campaign groups insist will not go nearly far enough in combatting climate change, activists were defiant that protests would go ahead.

Saturday was always supposed to be a major mobilisation: a figure of 200,000 had been talked about for a mass protest in Paris. The legal situation has diversified this into a myriad of actions, adventures and demonstrations, some of them sanctioned by police, others not.

On Friday thousands of activists from around the world gathered at the Climate Action Zone in the city to be briefed on plans for #D12 (December 12th).

The first of these sanctioned events is an unusual action organised by Friends of the Earth for 10am on Saturday that will spell out a message to the world across the map of Paris. Thousands of people standing in pairs, and using their phones’ geotagging function to pinpoint their position on each letter, will spell out the words “Climate Justice Peace”. This will be visible at www.amisdelaterre-cop21.org.

Then at midday is the Red Line protest, next to the Arc de Triomphe. People are asked to arrive in twos and form a long line - but despite this, police were refusing to sanction it with just hours to go.

A statement from 350.org, one of the groups involved, said: “To commemorate known victims of climate change (past and future). . . thousands will stand along the Avenue to draw a red line with their bodies, signifying our commitment to defend our common homes.

The line will point towards the real perpetrators of climate crimes in La Défense, where the headquarters of major fossil fuel companies and their financial backers can be found.”

The main slogan behind Red Lines is: “Because climate justice won’t wait for politicians. It’s up to us to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”