1,200 climate activists march on Davos as police increase security

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Thousands of climate protesters are marching across Switzerland to Davos ahead of demonstrations during the World Economic Forum.

Activists have spent three days marching from Landquart, in the Swiss Alps, to Davos and plan to arrive on January 21 – the first day of the summit.

Security in the Alpine town has been beefed up ahead of their arrival as world and business leaders including the likes of Donald Trump are expected there this week.

Roads leading into the town have been closed, 5,000 troops placed on standby, police snipers positioned on rooftops and airspace restricted in order to make sure the event passes off smoothly. 

Officials have outlined additional measures including vehicle checks and webcam shutdowns to ensure the event passes off smoothly. 

Zurich regional police said some 130 attendees who are ‘protected under international law’ – including royalty, presidents and prime ministers – were expected to pass through toward the Davos gathering from Tuesday to Friday. 

All told, nearly 3,000 leaders from civil society, business, politics and elsewhere from 118 countries are expected as the Forum marks its 50th year.

Protesters with the ‘Strike-WEF’ collective have taken issue with one security measure: An order from regional police that no more than 300 people can attend a planned protest near the town hall. 

Authorities insist the square is too small to hold more people. The protesters have called such limits anti-democratic.

On their website, Strike-WEF organisers argue that those attending the summit are largely responsible for climate change and have enriched themselves while failing to protect the environment.

They are demanding that companies immediately invest away from fossil fuels, that CEOs step down over their environmental failings, and that the world economy be restructured to better protect the planet. 

‘When they can have space for 3,000 people – the majority of who are the richest people on the planet – but for only 300 among the 99% of the rest of us, it’s a joke,’ said Payal Parekh, a spokeswoman for the collective. 

Members of the group and its supporters – some dressed in get-ups like Ronald McDonald outfits – were marching toward Davos but have been barred from the main roads to get there.

‘There are ways to get to Davos,’ she said. ‘We are creative and flexible.’

Rosalina Mueller, a spokeswoman for the Young Socialists that is helping organize the demonstration in Davos, applauded the idea of having leaders come together, but said they’d failed to help the world over the last half-century.

‘They say they want to make the world better, but for 50 years they haven’t done anything,’ she said. 

Forum organizers have pointed to scores of initiatives like planting trees, enlisting businesses in advocacy programs, and rallying thousands of promising youths to help their communities in scores of countries around the world.

The Swiss national authorities were restricting airspace and have authorized up to 5,000 troops to take part in enhanced security. 

Authorities and Forum organizers have set aside a budget of $9million for extra security measures during the event.

Zurich authorities were boosting security checks of people and vehicles and advising Zurich airport visitors to use public transport for Trump’s expected arrival on Tuesday.

Protesters began their march on Sunday, two days after teen climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed a rally of tens of thousands of people in the Swiss city of Lausanne.

The 17-year-old activist, who is due to address the forum alongside other teen activists, promised world leaders ‘you haven’t seen anything yet’ in her speech.

In a pre-summit speech, International Monetary Fund chief economist Gita Gopinath issued a warning over the climate, saying: ‘Countries need to co-operate on multiple fronts to lift growth and spread prosperity… 

‘They must adopt strategies to limit the rise in global temperatures and the severe consequences of weather-related natural disasters.’

Leading the counter-charge will likely be climate change skeptic Donald Trump, who is due to address the forum on Tuesday.

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