‘Shameful’ UN silencing Indigenous voices, say banned Cop27 activists

Campaigners who interrupted US president’s speech had passes revoked after they put ‘lives in danger’

The four activists gave a war cry and held up a banner during Joe Biden’s speech last Friday. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters Four US activists who had their Cop27 accreditation revoked after briefly interrupting the US president, Joe Biden, in Sharm el-Sheikh have described the UN as “shameful” and say it has silenced Indigenous voices.

Big Wind, Jacob Johns, Jamie Wefald, and Angela Zhong missed the second week of the climate conference after being suspended for standing up with a “People vs Fossil Fuels” banner during Biden’s speech last Friday. The Indigenous activists, Wind and Johns, gave a war cry to announce themselves and draw attention to the fossil fuels crisis before security officials confiscated the banner. The group then sat down and Biden continued. The activists appealed against the suspension to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), but the case has not yet been resolved.

“We’ve been locked out, our voices silenced,” said Johns, 39, a Washington state-based community organiser from the Akimel O’otham and Hopi tribe. “The climate collapse is coming, we are literally fighting for our lives. If we’re not allowed to advocate for our future, who will? It’s shameful.”

Wind, 29, an Indigenous conservation associate for Wyoming Outdoor Council and member of the Northern Arapaho tribe, said: “This is a clear example of radical Indigenous people and youth being silenced, we’re muted when we try to express our frustration in these spaces. It shows the UN’s true colours.”

Cop27 has been one of the most repressive – and expensive – UN climate summits on record. The Egyptian regime banned any unsanctioned protests or actions taking place inside or outside the conference centre. A handful of summit delegates have been arrested, deported and harassed, while hundreds of Egyptian civilians were arrested in Cairo amid rumours of brewing political protests. Price gouging has left grassroots activists struggling to raise funds to cover accommodation and food.

International spaces have been historically off limits to indigenous peoples, one of the activists said. [Sean Gallup | Getty Images]

Inside the conference centre, known as the blue zone, plainclothes security officials have monitored the small authorised protests demanding climate justice and an end to fossil fuels. Government stooges interrupted panel events drawing attention to the plight of hunger striker Alaa Abd el-Fattah and Egypt’s 60,000 other political prisoners. Ukrainian activists who earlier this week interrupted a Russian delegation event with shouts of “R