Danish police hold 240 climate protesters

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish police detained 240 people on Wednesday when protesters stormed barricades around a global climate summit and briefly broke through a police cordon, witnesses and a police spokesman said.

Police, some with dogs, used truncheons and pepper spray to keep back the hundreds of protesters who gathered outside Copenhagen’s Bella Center, where world leaders are meeting to try to broker a new deal on global warming.

After hours of scuffles, most demonstrators began to drift away from the conference center on the outskirts of the Danish capital by late afternoon.

“After we and the protesters had looked at each other for a while and we tried to have a dialogue, then the majority of the protesters decided to head back into the city, so ... it seems to be over,” Copenhagen police chief superintendent Per Larsen said on Danish TV 2 news.

Demonstrators tried to penetrate a police cordon around the conference center, and a few did break through an outer ring of security momentarily but were chased down by police, a Reuters witness said.

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One climbed onto a police van but an officer climbed up after him, and hit him twice with a baton, until he fell down.

Roads surrounding the center and the nearest metro station were closed in response to the protests. A helicopter circled overhead, and police inspected the belongings of some people heading toward the conference venue.

The demonstrators had set out from Taarnby, a suburb of Copenhagen a few kilometers (miles) from the Bella Center conference facility where 190 governments were meeting. Light snow flurries fell as they started their march.

Police later held some protesters at bay across a footbridge from the conference center, where one man shouted at police: “We told you we would be peaceful, and you reacted with violence. Shame on you.”

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Climate Justice Action, which organized the march, said a few thousand people took part. Police declined to estimate the number of protesters.

The conference’s U.N. organizers restricted non-governmental organizations’ access to the Bella Center for security reasons on Wednesday, drawing sharp criticism from many NGOs.

The Danish government said it would arrange an alternative conference venue in Copenhagen for observer NGO members that would not be able to enter the Bella Center on Thursday and Friday when 119 heads of state and government join the talks.

Additional Reporting by John Acher and Henriette Jacobsen, writing by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Dominic Evans