Activists Unfurl Two Banners With Climate Change Message to Donald Trump, Putin on Helsinki Church Bell Tower

While in Helsinki, Finland, for a summit Monday morning, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin were greeted with two banners, hanging from a church tower, that proclaimed a message about climate change.

Greenpeace activists hung the two banners, which said, "Warm Our Hearts, Not Our Planet," on either side of the Kallio Church in Helsinki early Monday morning, according to a press release. The demonstration was coordinated in conjunction with the church's parish in an effort to remind the public that "empathy and action" are key to protecting the planet.

Juha Aromaa, communications lead for the Great Northern Forest campaign with Greenpeace Nordic, told Newsweek that Greenpeace considers climate change "one of the biggest threats to humankind." Sini Harkki, Greenpeace Nordic program manager for Finland, called it the "defining challenge of our generation" and said its impact is "putting our lives in danger."

In Helsinki, Finland, Greenpeace Nordic activists unfold two banners in the high bell tower of the Kallio Church that say "Warm Our Hearts, Not Our Planet." © Greenpeace

"We want to reach out to the people whose eyes are on Helsinki on this day with a message of hope: People all over the world are already leading and demanding climate action despite Presidents Trump and Putin ignoring climate change," Aromaa told Newsweek.

Harkki said in the press release that "people power is the real power" and applauded the everyday citizen for demanding clean, renewable energy and for holding "politicians and polluters to account."

Aromaa told Newsweek that Greenpeace hopes to see Trump agree with "nearly 100 percent of the world's scientists on the urgency of climate change" and honor the commitments of the Paris climate accord, although the president withdrew the United States from the agreement in June 2017.

Greenpeace wasn't alone in its use of the summit to promote a message about its cause. The night before, the Human Rights Campaign projected messages onto the side of the Presidential Palace, where the meeting would be held, about ending the persecution of gay people in the Russian republic of Chechnya.

S President Donald Trump (L) chats with Russia's President Vladimir Putin as they attend the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. On July 16, the two world leaders met for a one-on-one discussion. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/Getty Images

Among the slogans were "Bring the Perpetrators to Justice, "The Whole World Is Watching" and "Silence Is Deadly." The projections also accused Trump of ignoring the "systematic torture, abuse, and murder of LGBTQ people" in Chechnya.

The summit, which began 45 minutes behind schedule, was set to last an hour and a half. Trump told reporters the topics to be broached would include "everything from trade to military to nuclear," according to The New York Times.

"I think we have great opportunities together as two countries that, frankly, we have not been getting along very well for the last number of years," Trump told Putin during a brief meeting with the press before the closed-door discussion, according to CNN. "I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship."

The American and Russian leaders have spoken at previous events, but the early-Monday meeting in Helsinki is the first time the two have met for a prearranged discussion. While world leaders often bring their administration officials to meetings, this time it was just Trump and Putin with translators. However, other officials were invited to a working lunch set to take place after the one-on-one meeting.

In Helsinki, Finland, Greenpeace Nordic activists unfold two banners in the high bell tower of the Kallio Church that say "Warm Our Hearts, Not Our Planet." © Greenpeace