"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
activists from london rising tide (helped by 'rhythms of resistance' samba players), staged a noisy and theatrical protest at the royal festival hall yesterday evening, highlighting the greenwashing of shell's image through cultural sponsorship in their 'shell classic international' festival at the southbank centre.
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yesterday evening, around a dozen activists gathered near their south bank target, and prepared their large surdo drums, 'shell hell' face masks, and grim reaper costumes. shortly before seven, they formed a procession and swiftly entered the royal festival hall foyer.
as the demonic figures processed through the foyer, a slow funereal drum beat filled the area, while other activists moved round the foyer handing out hundreds of leaflets.
the leaflets reminded people how once, cultural sponsorship by 'big tobacco' was acceptable. campaigners wish to make 'big oil' sponsorship unacceptable in the way that tobacco now is.
'big oil' is an ecocidal industry wreaking climate change havoc, as well as destroying lives (literally in the case of ken saro-wiwa and eight other activists), in nigeria, ireland, and canada (where tar sands extraction covering the size of england is destroying the environment and indigenous lives and futures).
in order to 'greenwash' its image, shell only have to channel the tiniest crumbs of its £35,000 per minute profits (2011) in order to cynically protect its image through cultural sponsorship.
at the royal festival hall, the security men soon began to ask the costumed protesters to leave. despite some gentle passive resistance, the burly security men eventually forced everyone outside the doors, mostly in a firm and gentle manner (although a couple of smaller 'south bank security' men who joined them got a bit more unnecessarily lairy).
outside the doors of the royal festival hall, security managers made anxious phone-calls and after a short while two policemen arrived. the hall managers pointed out that the protest was still taking place on private land, and they were concerned at the noise of the drums, and the embarassment to specially invited guests, including a special reception for none other than 'j p morgan', (one of the worst banking collapse culprits and the employer of well-known ex-PM and war criminal, 'tony blair').
one of the constables, looking through the protest leaflet, pointed out that it missed out the controversial mammoth oil refinery in durban, south africa! he was clearly not a fan of the dirty corporation, and once he'd established the protestors were intending to leave at 7.30 at the start of the recital, he allowed the drumming and the protest to remain in situ, saying quietly that he was "sure we can string it out till then".
so, as a mixture of genuine music lovers, and corporate f**kwits arrived at the hall, they heard the noise, saw the costumes, and most people readily accepted the leaflets, often with very positive reaction on reading it. shell's greenwash was looking dirtier by the minute.
suddenly, the protest was approached by a man in a suit who, hiding his ID badge, proceeded to take a series of close-up photos of everyone involved, including journalists. he may have been associated with shell, or perhaps a member of the 'south bank' security team. apart from the images of journos and leafleteers, he went home with a succession of close-ups of the excellent shell skull masks. it should be easy for him to identify them again next time! :)
at 7.30, the procession eerily marched away, drums echoing into the distance.
durban oil refinery is a joint venture with (olympic sustainability partner) BP. it is an ageing and huge refinery beset with years of problems with pollution, accidents, and leaks, destroying the environment for local people.
more info: www.risingtide.org.uk
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