Symbolic shoe protest in Paris after climate change rally is cancelled over security fears

PARIS - More than 20,000 demonstrators who had planned to come to Paris to participate in a large climate protest, but were left frustrated after the gathering was cancelled due to security fears, have instead sent shoes to form a big pile in a sign of solidarity at the Place de la Republique.

The event, organised by non-governmental organisation, is being held to symbolise the people who were expected to take part in the gathering on Sunday (Nov 29) .

Some 22,000 pairs now form part of the protest, said the organisers.

Even the Vatican sent a pair to represent Pope Francis, who is currently on a tour of Africa, organisers said.

Among those at the Place de la Republique on Sunday was charity worker Ida Digon, 48, from Indonesia, who said she was taking part in the shoe protest "because I am concerned about the climate. We consume too much in Europe."

She has lived in Paris for 25 years.

"I want to use this experience in organising protests to take back to Indonesia if one day we have a people's movement," she told the Straits Times.

French artist Christo Lemeunier, 68, a volunteer for the shoe protest, said he wasn't surprised by the response.

"Suddenly there is imagination from people."

He said he hoped the Paris climate meeting will agree an end to fossil fuel use by 2050.

A state of emergency that is in place following the terrorist attack earlier this month that killed 130 people prevent public gatherings in France.

Iain Keith, campaign director, said the shoes were donated by Parisians over the past week.

"This is a way of symbolically and powerfully joining the climate march and each pair of shoes shows the determination of Parisians to have their voices heard on climate change," he told The Straits Times.

French authorities cancelled two climate demonstrations following the Nov 13 attacks. Despite that several thousand people turned up on the streets of Paris later on Sunday with their messages for action to stop climate change.

Instead of marching, they linked hands to form a two-kilometre human chain, leaving a 100-metre gap in front of the Bataclan concert hall, where 90 lives were lost in the attacks, as a mark of respect to the victims.

Mihael Kasas, 32, an organic farmer from Slovenia, who joined the human chain protest told The Straits Times: "Everybody should feel the need to participate and act globally and we need a mass of people to be heard globally."

The human chain took on a carnival atmosphere as dozens of different groups from Europe and around the globe held up placards, played music and wore colourful costumes.

A group of seven activists from Australia, who dressed up as angels and called themselves the Climate Guardians, called for an end to polluting energy.

“Most Australians don’t want their country treated like a giant quarry. We want 100 per cent renewable energy,” said  Deborah Hart, 51, a writer from Melbourne as she held a sign “Coal kills”.

Actors Jock Maitland, 25, from Scotland and Julien Nguyen Dinh, 35, from France turned up wearing ski suits and holding skis while standing on a mock up of a snow covered mountain. "The idea is our mountains are melting and water is rising and we live for skiing," said the duo.

While both the shoe protest and the human chain were peaceful, there were reports later on Sunday about police firing teargas.

Agence France-Presse said , riot police took action after a small group of masked protesters began chanting, “State of emergency, police state”, referring to measures restricting protests that were introduced after the Nov 13 attacks.

The incident took place about two hours after the human chain protest.

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