Protesters in Tbilisi Join World-Wide Protest Preceding Climate Change Conference

Last Sunday, a day before the official opening of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, activists in Tbilisi joined a movement of roughly 2,500 marches, protests, and demonstrations organized around the world to show their support for a strong international agreement on how to combat global climate change. The conference has been hotly anticipated by those pressing for legally binding action by the world’s governments. The global turnout Sunday was intended to send a message to the conference participants, and whether or not the message is heeded it was at least made; one estimate puts the number of demonstrators world-wide at over 570,000.

Tbilisi’s contribution was undeniably sotto voce. There were only around 70 attendees, the vast majority of whom were either associated with the European School itself, whose students and teachers organized the Tbilisi march, or were foreigners visiting or living in Georgia. Marchers were asked to wear green, and bring some kind of noise-making device. After gathering outside the Freedom Square metro station, the crowd made its way down the block to Parliament, in front of which some speeches were made and pictures taken.

Though numbers were small, enthusiasm among all attendees was high. Glaxo, 18, a student from the European School, joked about his reasons for attending – it’s an easy way to fulfill his extracurricular activity requirements, he said, with a broad grin – but betrayed himself seen, and heard, open-palm hammering the soundbox drum he’d brought along. His joking aside, he made clear that he wasn’t only addressing the silent parliament building facing him. “To the person who will be reading this,” he said, “I’m telling you that you should be more concerned about the world. And even if you already are, you should be more concerned.”

Ana Dosoudilova, one of the staff organizers, considered the small turnout pragmatically. “Actually, bearing in mind the situation here in Georgia, I think (the turnout) is good, and I love the amount of people,” Ms. Dosoudilova said. “I guess people have enough of their own worries, so they’re not used to being active, they’re not used to fighting for something else than their own life, and I understand that totally… If you talk to people, and they say let’s go to the streets, let’s have a demonstration, they don’t really know what to imagine, or what it means.”

That doesn’t mean she’s not optimistic. “Although most of these are our kids from our school, I’m happy that they came, because in the future it’s going to be them organizing similar events,” she said. “I think that this kind of a people’s movement is just the beginning.”

Alongside the European School students, the international presence could be distinctly felt. Small circles formed of slightly higher heads of slightly lighter hair, marking out groups of visiting foreigners, each echoing the other when asked why they attended.

“I think it’s good that the people all over the globe see that it’s a global movement,” Jakub, a young man from the Czech Republic currently living in Mtskheta, told Georgia Today. “It’s not just happening in Paris or Berlin… people in Tbilisi also care.”

Pointing to his friend, he added, “And partly I’m here just because we can be. She’s living in Baku and just visiting, and in Baku it would not be possible.”

Strikingly, one city where the march certainly wasn’t possible was Paris itself. In the wake of last month’s Islamic State attacks on the nation’s capital city, France has been under a state of emergency, which resulted in authorities refusing to allow the long-planned march through Paris.

For Alice, one of the activists in Tbilisi on Sunday, the decision to ban the Paris protests was personal. 

“I’m French, and I have a lot of problems,” she explained. “I have a lot of friends who would like to demonstrate on the streets in Paris, and they can’t.”

“So, I walked for a friend,” she said. “And for myself.”

Robert Isaf




03 December 2015 22:16