#occupyoil upper st shell garage closed tonightTagged as: blockade environmentalism nigeria occupyoil oil samba shell upper_street
in the third london action today, the upper street shell garage in islington was closed by activists for over an hour. while a samba band played, loads of leaflets were handed out. many passing motorists hooted support and cyclists often cheered.
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this was the third london action under the #occupyoil banner today, following on from this morning's blockade of a garage in belgravia, and a small protest outside the nigerian high commission at midday.
as per a recent action, police seemed to have gained intelligence about this site, or maybe made a good guess (as it has been the target of previous actions for many years). either way, they were clearly not sure of the time, and perhaps jittery about the possible scale of the "occupyoil" movement (which claimed to be about to close down every garage in london), they stationed a police van nearby from 10.30 this morning.
the van was still there this evening, and activists gathered in a pub several hundred yards away near highbury and islington station. again, either through covert surveillance or a lucky guess, the police arrived outside the pub, with a vanload parked up outside, as well as two FIT team cars buzzing around nearby.
so the activists, around 20 people, set off on a little walkabout, and as they went the wrong way down a one way street, FIT officers followed on foot while the van drove round. however, despite a circuitous route, the activists couldn't shake off the surveillance (hard for a large group of people carrying banners and drums). so, finally emerging from a side road opposite the petrol station, they were greeted by a row of officers across the front of the garage. sergeant "driver" (no conflict of interest there) informed the protestors that they would be arrested for 'aggravated trespass' should they attempt to blockade the forecourt, but that they could continue their protest on the pavement outside.
but soon after the samba band had started up and the banners were unfurled, the station staff emerged from their shop, placed bollards across the entrance and closed the garage, stating they'd been told to do so by management, and so providing the required result for the action anyway.
comedy activist charlie veitch happened to pass by on a bus, and he dropped by with his megaphone for a few minutes adding a comic twist to the proceedings.
news of the action spread quickly via the internet, and squatting activists came up from their latest city repossession/occupation to swell numbers a little.
comedian and comedy writer paul whitehouse was among the many passers-by who were handed leaflets.
due to the cold weather, a few people having to leave, and the late start to the action, the protestors decided to finish together and leave together as a group, after managing to close the garage for business for about an hour and twenty minutes in total.
the police operation today raises some serious questions about their role in protecting shell. at least one van full of police was stationed in upper street for more than eight hours before the action. two FIT teams were deployed during the evening. once the action began, there were a further three vans of police parked up with engines running near the garage.
so who is paying for all this? is it the public, in which case, in times of austerity and serious crime, is this a sensible use of resources? or is it shell, in which case is this another example of police being privately hired? (as per the recently broken story about virgin).
is it reasonable anyway, whoever is paying, for the police to spend so much energy protecting the commercial interests of such a dodgy company? the past and proposed actions against shell are not dangerous, never violent, and wholly legitimate. they succeed in closing single outlets for a period of a few hours at a time, and are a symbolic attack on a multi-national corporation that made a profit of more than £18 billion last year - that's £35,000 per minute!
shell has been implicated in irish government corruption over its rossport oil pipeline and refinery.
they are up to their necks in controversy over their tar sands extraction, facing an international law court case for trashing indigenous lands in canada, a project that scientists claim could in itself lead directly to several degrees of climate change.
their oil spills around the world devastate lands. new arctic drilling has already led to spills in virgin territories in canada and alaska. leaks from the sakhalin refinery in east russia threaten the breeding grounds of pacific grey whales. in the niger delta, the devastation is incredible, with oil spills equivalent in size of the BP deepwater horizon spill occuring EACH YEAR for the past few years.
it is surely indefensible then that the authorities spend so much energy on pre-emptive and oppressive policing of anti-shell actions.
presumably, they will be putting on a huge security operation to avoid any disruption of the business meeting tomorrow evening in west london with special guests, the managing director of shell nigeria and the nigerian energy minister.
for more info on shell campaigning, see www.risingtide.org.uk and www.shelltosea.com
Contact email: rikkiindymedia(At)gmail[dot]com