Indigenous youth activists demonstrated outside the COP25 on the first morning of the UN climate conference against Chilean state repression alongside their Mapuche compañeros.
The demonstrators gave speeches in Spanish and English wearing bandannas, patches and bandages over their faces to represent the 200 activists in Chile who have lost an eye because of police rubber bullets.
Xicana Niria Alicia said: “We came out to stand in solidarity with our Chilean brothers and sisters, particularly our indigenous relatives out there who have been experiencing massive amounts of police brutality.”
The COP25 was moved from Santiago de Chile to Madrid weeks before it was due to begin because of civil unrest, meaning Sebastián Piñera and the Chilean government have avoided scrutiny of their human rights abuses according to the demonstrators, who are determined to refocus the world's attention on to what has been two centuries of extractivism, colonialism and combustion.
Kevin Brookland of the artivist network said: “This is not about the small metro rise that kicked off a mass social movement. This is about thirty years of a neo-liberal agenda that has devastated our planet and our communities and that same logic is being applied at this COP with proposing emissions trading schemes and market solutions as if they were an effective way to actually deal with the emergency that we are facing as a global community.”
The Mapuche people of Southern Chile make up 10 percent of the country's populace and they have accused the Chilean government of genocide.
Ximena Painequeo of the Lafkenche territorial identity said: “[We] are being terribly suppressed these days. Even our young people are being left without one of their eyes, they are our brothers and sisters...
"We are here to tell the government and the whole world: Stop looting our ancestral lands. Stop looting all indigenous people in America and in the rest of the world ... If you keep looting our planet it will only keep deteriorating.”
Extinction Rebellion followed with their own demonstration in the afternoon, blocking the road with banners in Russian and English to demand stronger action from world leaders.
They were joined by eight-year-old child activist Licypriya Kangujam as she left the conference building. She asked: “Why should I come here? Why should I speak here? I have to go to my school, I have to read my books, I have to play, I have to study.
"But our leaders have ruined our childhood life and our beautiful future ... What I want is not about today or tomorrow but what needs to be done now.”
Demonstrations against government inaction have escalated since the conference began, culminating in a march of nearly half a million people on Friday night along Madrid’s central artery, Paseo de la Castellana, with Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future also targeting corporate greenwashing.
Greta Thunberg joined her fellow youth strikers in the COP25, wading through a media swarm before giving a press conference: “We have been striking now for over a year and still nothing has happened. The climate crisis is still being ignored by those in power and we cannot go on like this. It is not a sustainable solution that children skip school. We don’t want to continue.”
China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and India have caused anger amongst some delegates, who have accused them of blocking progress on the talks and ignoring the urgency of the crisis.
There was a strong, almost desperate hope from activists that these negotiations will finally yield some concrete results.
Speaking at the conference, Al Gore said: “We are not facing up to this challenge. The crisis is still getting worse at a rate that exceeds the rate at which we are mobilising solutions but we are gaining momentum and soon we will be gaining on the crisis. The will to act is itself a renewable resource.”
Danny Halpin is a reporter for Extinction Rebellion’s Rebel Radio and is studying for his MA in journalism at Birkbeck, University of London. He is a regular contributor for TruePublica and his work has featured in the Journal of Popular Music Education, Lippy Magazine and his website.
Image: Danny Halpin.