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French Authorities Ban Big Marches During UN Climate Talks in Paris

Protest organizers say public participation is crucial for securing a positive outcome at the upcoming UN climate talks in Paris, which begin in less than two weeks.
Photo by Ian Langsdon/EPA

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The French foreign minister said on Wednesday that two big protests scheduled at the opening and closing of UN climate talks in Paris will not be permitted.

"The situation created by the heinous November 13 attacks and the subsequent investigations make it necessary for safety regulations to be reinforced," the Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement. "In this context, all events organized in enclosed and easily secured spaces will be maintained. However, in order to avoid any additional risk, the government has decided to not authorize the climate marches scheduled in the streets of Paris and in other French cities on November 29 and December 12."


Nicolas Haeringer of said mobilizations during the talks would proceed.

"Our voices will not be silenced. While this makes it difficult to go forward with our original plans, we will still find a way for people in Paris to make the call for climate justice heard, and we encourage everyone around the world to join a Global Climate March and raise their voices louder than ever," he said.

Jean François Julliard, Executive Director of Greenpeace France, expressed regret at the government's announcement, although said the group would adhere to the prohibition.

"Huge numbers were expected in Paris, but those people will not be silenced," he said. "We will find new, imaginative ways to ensure our voices are heard in the UN conference center and beyond. And in hundreds of towns and cities across the world people will still march for the climate, for Paris and for our shared humanity. We stand for a vision of human cooperation that the murderers sought to extinguish. They will not succeed."

Selj B. Lamers, a climate justice activist who just arrived in Paris from Amsterdam, said that although groups will have to adjust their plans, the ban proves the importance of their presence in Paris.

"This deepens our commitment and our message more than ever," he said. "We believe we have the tools and the creativity to spread the message still and there's nothing that can put an emerging movement like this on hold."


"Governments cannot wish a movement away," he added.

Related: What Exactly Does France's State of Emergency Entail?

Many other events during the climate talks will go on as planned, according to, including the Pathway to Paris concert with performances by Thom Yorke, Patti Smith, and Flea, among others. Coalition Climate 21, an umbrella group that is organizing protests during the talks, said more than 57 marches are planned around the world. The group said it will find "an alternative form of citizen mobilization, to show that COP21 will not be done only with negotiators."

"COP 21 is not an end in itself and that we citizens of the world," the group said. "We have built a movement that will only be strengthened after this summit and beyond."

Days after the attacks across Paris that took over 130 lives and wounded hundreds more, French President Francois Hollande declared the country to be "at war," while defiantly insisting that UN climate talks taking place in less than two weeks must go on.

The government's announcement comes following a Tuesday meeting between protest organizers and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

The talks in Paris are expected to draw 120 heads of state and as many as 60,000 attendees, while organizers were hoping to draw as many as 200,000 people for the Global Climate March on November 29.

Climate organizers and environmental leaders have called a series of emergency meetings over the past several days to reconsider their approach, strategy, and the messaging surrounding major events planned in the run-up to climate talks in the French capital.


While the coalition has said it has no intentions of disobeying official bans on demonstrations, they are hopeful that authorities will see the conference as an opportunity to express resilience.

"We fully share [government] concerns about public safety, just as we fully oppose any unnecessary crackdowns on civil liberties and minority populations," Haeringer said on Monday. "We can think of few better responses to violence and terror than this movement's push for peace and hope. "

Related: What We Know About the Alleged Mastermind Behind the Paris Attacks

In response to the attacks and speculation that large gatherings during the UN talks, known as COP21, might be prohibited, the coalition issued a statement affirming that the struggle for climate justice was amplified after Friday's violence.

"The world that we defend is that of peace, justice, the fight against inequality, and against climatic disturbances," coalition members said. "While taking into account the exceptional circumstances, we believe that COP 21 cannot take place without the participation or without the mobilizations of civil society in France."

On Monday, Foreign Minister Fabius told Reuters that many world leaders, including President Obama, had confirmed their attendance.

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