Reclaiming Chants Albums
Copenhagen December 2009
Pagan Cluster at the copenhagen Climate Conference
Feeling a Little Hot and Cold
Text by Riyana Moon / Photos by Jason Scarecrow
Christania is like a place out of a anarchist-collective fairy tale: it spans both sides of the canal running through the city, living spaces on one side, the other side housing several cafes, the large tent that serves as both temporary mess hall and workshop / speaker space, an art space, a playground just about everything you can think of, all communally created and owned. Last night, when we first walked the grounds lit by candles and small yellow lanterns and watched the dark, mysterious reflections of the trees reflecting in the black water, it seemed to utopian to be believed. This morning when we headed over there for breakfast, the trash strewed about and disrepair of many of the graffiti-covered buildings, brought it down to reality in a good way. This place is not a fairy tale, but really, a work-in-progress on this plane, in this world. Right in the middle of the biggest city in Denmark, a colony of arts and sustainability (they're working on it) and shared ownership; a world unto itself. As you're leaving the compound -- which must be a couple of blocks square -- the archway reads, Now entering the EU.
A couple of days ago, when Lisa was briefing us about what was happening here and where, she told us, "Copenhagen is like a post-apocalyptic city. When the shit hits the fan, these are the people that I want to be with me."
We headed down to Chistania for breakfast in the tent, which, like all off the collective kitchens, is completely donation-based no-one-turned-away-for-lack-of-funds (to get a sense of the generosity of that, consider that our hostel charges 65 dkk, the equivalent of about $13, for a continental-like breakfast. And that's cheap. Getting a hamburger and fries at the little restaurant next door is about $20 US dollars, after it's all said and done). As we ate, a fellow from Chistania was giving a talk about their efforts to green the place in the workshop space next door, followed by a Sunday morning sermon by a Unitarian-sort of preacher about the oneness of all people and faiths, at their core. We listened for a while and then Jason and I headed off to the Farmer's Rally while Tom broke off to go to the Bella Center for a scouting mission on his bike.
I didn't realize we were looking for Rhythms of resistance - the samba drumming group we were with the day before - until I realized, with disappointment, that they weren't there. The farmer's action that we were at, with speakers from agricultural people and indigenous folks from all over the world but especially the global south, was one of two major actions that day - the other was "Stop the Production," an anti-capitalist action that aimed to blockade and shut down Copenhagen's harbor. Although potentially quite exciting, in my mind, any attempt to shut down a major port with civil disobedience sounds a bit like walking into a pepper spray shower. Aside from which, I'm personally very interested in food justice activism and working with folks from developing nations. Jason, it turned out, felt the same, and so we had both forgone the blockade in favor or the march. But, alas, it seemed we were the only drummers who had. There was a large, very static-y, sound system on a truck for the rally, but nothing for the march. In fact we soon discovered that there was no march happening at all. The speakers spoke, and then we were all standing around in the park, all dressed up and with no place to go and no drummers to drum with. We didn't know how many of them had been arrested the day before after we left them, but we knew that some definitely had been.
Just as we had grabbed our stuff to leave, a tiny whisper of sound - a pulsing, if you will - started to tickle my ears, kind of like when someone is talking about you nearby but you don't see them. I looked up. Jason apparently didn't hear it yet: he was watching the cops at the side of the rally, who seemed for the most part pretty bored and certainly very few compared to how many US police would have been at a rally that size in Pittsburgh or St. Paul. I wandered over to the edge of the plaza, and as I did, I noticed the sound was definitely growing louder. It sounded like drums.
Sure enough, as I got to the street I could see a fuchsia-tinged raucous headed towards us. It was the band - and, from the looks of it, the whole 50 or 60 person band, making their way towards us in full festivity and intensity. The police seemed to notice it at about the same time: the samba band was headed right towards us, taking over the street in spite of whatever traffic had wanted to get through, lively and drawing quite a crowd. Jason and I smiled in relief, strapped our drums on, and fell into step with our tom-tom compatriots as they passed.
And then the march was happening. People just came - some of them particpants from the farmer's rally, some of them people from the street - and followed us. They were willing to go where we were going, wherever that was. In front of us, samba dancers were dancing in the streets to clear the way for the band. Behind us streamed people with flags of all colors and causes and nations. And, of course, the cops were activated. The grabbed their shit and started following along side us on foot and then by van.
They blocked the road in front of us with their vans, and like the sardines in the ocean move like one creature, the samba band inverted in upon itself to turn around and went the other way, and all the people followed. Down the streets we marched, dancing and drumming, shouting for justice for the campesinos and food for all, food that cannot be grown if our soils are dried-out by rising temperatures and our water poisoned. At one point, the police blocked the way again, and the person who was acting "maestro" (band leader) at the time put her hands in an "O" abover her head to signal it was time for a huddle. So we all huddled together in the street, with the cops around us and the people waiting patiently. It's really quite amazing, really. Here we are, leading a parade, when suddenly someone has news that requires a decision to be made. So, because we operate by consensus, we all huddle up to make a decision while everyone - including the cops, apparently - waits. The news was that the cops would allow us to go to the Klima Forum, that is, the Climate Forum for the People, but no further. They were worried, it seemed, that we were going to try to go down to the Harbor to support the Stop the Production People. And indeed, some of the drummers did want to do that. Others felt that it was pointless, as the word on the street was that that action had already been kettled in and arrests were happening.
We decided to go down to the Klima Forum and stop for lunch. After lunch (another communal kitchen experience, but this one not as peachy - we waited in two different lines for food that kept running out on us, outside, in the freezing cold, for about an hour before finally getting lucky and getting a bowl of soup) we gathered back up with the Rhythms of Resistance band, who were planning a solidarity action for the people in the jail. Because the people who had attempted to do a solidarity action the day before had been stopped at a bridge quite far from the temporary prison, we decided to form two bands - one to meet with the main bulk of activists and go to the normal way down to the prison and probably be stopped at the bridge again, and another that would go to a different metro stop and walk around another way, hopefully to get within earshot of the prison so that our compatriots inside would be able to hear us.
Remembering how disheartening and depressing it can be to be in jail, I decided that I really wanted to be a part of the smaller band, even though it seemed more likely that band would run into trouble. Jason felt the same, and so in spite of our rather mediocre samba skills (we still don't really have any idea what those hand signals mean) we headed out with them to the further Metro station to try and sneak around the side.
Unfortunately, we ended up at the wrong Metro station - not just Jason and I, but the whole second half of the samba band. It started to snow. We gathered in our huddle on the train platform, trying to figure out if we should head back to the main station and get on the train that would take us to where we really wanted to go, or just join up with the main band, who were only one stop away. Our scouts, sadly, were nowhere to be found but word was that they were coming to meet us where we were. Some people wanted to leave without them, to get as quickly as possible to where we were originally supposed to go. Others wanted to wait for the scouts and walk to our destination, even though no one really knew how to do that, and it seemed likely that we'd just end up stopped with the first group at the bridge. Consensus started to break down. People started to get crabby in the cold. And then the cops showed up out of nowhere and completely surrounded us, shouting for us to keep our hands up where they could see them.
In Denmark, cops can search you even there's no evidence of any sort of crime or misdeed. They separated us by gender and frisked us, went through our bags, checked our IDs, and took our addresses. (Luckily, they didn't also check to see if we had train tickets, because none of us did.)
The police showing up only made people more crabby and uncertain. After quite a long while with more huddling, we decided to head back to the main march. By the time we got there, though, everyone was heading back. A group of activists had been kettled in by the cops, and everyone else (including the first half of the samba band) was going home. It felt like a long, cold, frustrating night - distinctly different from our Utopian morning at Christania.
Jason and I went back to the Rag Center - short for Ragnhildgade, which is the name of the steet that its on - which is another compound of activists and communal kitchens and the main meeting space (it supposedly can house between 1000-2000 activists). We grabbed another bowl of soup and headed into the Spokescouncil, which was meeting to discuss Wednesday's "Reclaim the Power" action - the biggest action of the conference, in some ways. In some ways, Saturday's action with its 100,000 people was and is the biggest thing we could do. But the Reclaim the Power action is big in its confrontation of the Climate Change Summit. The meeting brought up all kinds of questions for me, like, what is really my intention being here? What kind of actions do I want to support -- those that attempt to cultivate and nourish the work being done at the Summit, or those that seek to disrupt it in order to bring more voices to the table? What is my ultimate goal, that is, what would "success" look like?
With these heavy questions, I went to bed. It was a long day, one full of both the good and the bad, and I felt more than ready to close my eyes and open myself to the wisdom and rejuvenation of the dreamworld for awhile.
Photos ©2009 by Jason Scarecrow/RQ. Please do not copy, reproduce, fold, spindle, mutilate, or otherwise use them without written permission. Thanks!
Return to top of page
Return to RQ Home Page
Like this feature? Please subscribe or donate today!