US supporters of a strong climate deal in Copenhagen on Saturday lit candles and erected a mock Noah?s Ark in Washington, warning leaders that the planet faced a crisis of biblical proportions.
The rally in view of the US Capitol was the culmination of a day of demonstrations around the world, including in the Danish capital where tens of thousands took to the streets near the venue of the 194-nation summit on climate change.
Unlike in Copenhagen, where fringes turned violent, the Washington demonstration was a smaller and orderly affair in which dozens of activists held a candlelight vigil as the sun set on the National Mall.
The activist group Avaaz.org set up a wooden model of Noah?s Ark with the inscription ?Climate Plan B,? a reference to the story in the monotheistic faiths of the vessel to save Earth?s representatives from a great deluge.
?The ark is ultimately a symbol of hope,? said the Rev. Derrick Harkins of Washington?s 19th Street Baptist Church. ?We as human beings have been given the tools to make sure we can make our way to the other side of a crisis.?
The demonstrators urged US President Barack Obama to support an ambitious and binding treaty in Copenhagen. Faced with conservative resistance to US action on climate change, Obama wants Copenhagen to consist of a set of voluntary pledges by nations rather than a document with legal obligations.
?I would hope that none of us would be satisfied with platitudes that may emanate from Copenhagen and then evaporate with the next news cycle,? Harkins said.
Pressure groups called similar rallies across the United States.
The United States is the only industrial power to shun the current Kyoto Protocol, but Obama has pledged to work with other nations on drafting future action against climate change.
In Copenhagen, activists demanding a planet-saving climate deal blazed a path to the door of the UN talks on Saturday in a raucous, festive rally that was also marked by sporadic violence and more than 960 arrests.
In a four-hour march to Bella Center, where the conference was under way, a crowd estimated by police to number more than 30,000 pounded out calls for carbon cuts, social justice and a taming of global capitalism.
One protester dressed as Santa Claus held up a banner saying global warming was occurring twice as fast in the Arctic as the rest of the world.
?My Rudolf cannot take it any more,? he said, referring to the red-nosed reindeer of the famous Christmas song.
Other demonstrators sported banners that read: ?There is no planet B,? ?Change the politics not the climate,? and ?Nature does not compromise.?
?Each year, 300,000 people are dying because of climate change,? Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, told the marchers. ?This is not about adaptation, it is about survival.?
?We cannot allow carbon traders to damage the world,? added Nigeria?s Nnimmo Bassey, chair of the Friends of the Earth International.
?There is no such thing as clean coal or clean crude. Leave the oil in the soil, leave the coal in the hole,? he said, leading a chant.
Up to 100,000
Police estimated the turnout at more than 30,000, while Danish television put the estimate at up to 100,000.
Climate Justice Action, a group involved in organizing Saturday?s demonstration, accused police of ?violating human rights by detaining people in bitter cold, cuffed and forced into seated positions on the ground.?
Rally organizers had repeatedly urged the crowd to remain nonviolent. But within minutes of the start, a disciplined band of hundreds of masked youths dressed head-to-toe in black threw bricks and firecrackers, smashing windows in the city center.
Over the course of the day a total of 968 protesters were taken into custody, police said. Police said only 13 of the people detained during and after the demonstration in Copenhagen remained in custody on Sunday.
A police officer was injured and four cars were burned out during clashes at a squat in Christiania, in central Copenhagen, on Saturday.
Sea of candles
Within the Congress hall, Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu led children in creating ?a sea of candles? representing a call from generations imperiled by climate change.
The march capped demonstrations scheduled in 130 cities around the world aimed at stoking pressure on leaders called to seal a landmark deal on climate change in the Danish capital.
Australia, the developed world?s highest per-capita polluter, kicked off the chain with up to 50,000 people taking to the streets nationwide, organizers said.
In Indonesia, activists rallied outside the US Embassy in Jakarta to urge the superpower to support developing nations.
March in Manila
In the Philippines, hundreds of protesters wearing red shirts banged on drums and sang songs outside Manila?s City Hall demanding global action on climate change.
More demonstrations were planned on Sunday.
Connie Hedegaard, a former Danish climate minister who is chairing the 12-day Copenhagen marathon, said the demonstrations reflected a public mood that politicians could not ignore.
The summit is due to end on Friday with a gathering of more than 110 heads of state and government to seal a deal committing major economies to curb emissions of heat-trapping fossil-fuel gases and generate hundreds of billions in dollars for poor countries badly exposed to climate change.
Many delegates at the summit complained that progress so far had been negligible and the mood soured by finger-pointing.
The European Union, Japan and Australia joined the United States on Saturday in criticizing the draft global warming pact that says major developing nations must rein in greenhouse gases, but only if they have outside financing. Rich nations want to require developing nations to limit emissions, with or without financial help.
Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said his country?the world?s No. 5 greenhouse gas polluter?would not offer more than its current pledge to slow its growth rate of emissions. It has offered to cut greenhouse gases measured against production by 20 to 25 percent by 2020.
China has made voluntary commitments to rein in its carbon emissions but doesn?t want to be bound by international law to do so. In China?s view, the United States and other rich countries have a heavy historical responsibility to cut emissions and any climate deal in Copenhagen should take into account a country?s level of development.
Britain?s Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, said deal makers had a long way to go.
?There are difficult issues to overcome,? he said, ?around emissions, around finance, and around transparency and they are all issues we need to tackle in the coming days.? Reports from Agence France-Presse and Associated Press