BP Oil Spill Protest (May 30, 2010)

Jackson Square
New Orleans, LA


BP’s greed & negligence MURDERED eleven human beings– real working people, just like you and me, with real families, spouses and children– and now BP is DESTROYING the entire Gulf Coast while the Federal Government does NOTHING!

The flood of toxic oil MUST be STOPPED NOW! No more delaying, no more excuses. BP is KILLING US ALL, killing our wildlife, our oysters and fish, our birds, and our way of life.

This is CHERNOBYL IN THE GULF: this is destroying the Gulf of Mexico for ENTIRE GENERATIONS.

BP cannot or will not stop it. The government MUST INTERVENE and by any means necessary with all available resources STOP THE BP OIL FLOOD!

This a list of ten demands we are making of the federal government.

Note we are speaking to the federal government, NOT BP. BP’s chance to have any say or authority in this process should be long past. BP has proven itself a criminal enterprise concerned only with profit, recklessly and indifferently murdering its employees and the entire Gulf coast.

We demand the Federal Governement intervene immediately to stop the BP Oil Flood and:

1. Declare the BP Oil Flood a national disaster so that Louisiana can finally begin getting federal assistance.
2. Stop BP’s use of “Corexit” and other chemical dispersants that present significant danger to health and safety.
3. Under a state of emergency, employ all resources (including Navy) of the government at every level – Federal, State, local, and parish — to defend our coast, our livelihoods, and our culture.
4. Suspend all BP contracts by means of the EPA’s discretionary debarment act and seize or attach all of BP’s assets, including BP Atlantis and other operational offshore rigs, to assure that all costs of cleanup and remediation are covered.
5. Strongly enforce all regulations for workplace health and safety: Cleanup crews must be supplied with and allowed to use full-face respirators, not paper masks.
6. Undertake immediate, full, and ongoing 3rd-party verified air-quality and toxicity testing in all affected areas, including New Orleans, and objective close monitoring of the oil leak to determine the true extent of the catastrophe.
7. End all deepwater offshore oil drilling.
8. Institute a temporary moratorium on non-deepwater offshore drilling (both current and new operations) and require each operation pass a stringent independent safety review before they can resume operation. Those that fail inspection stay shut down and are heavily fined until they comply or are debared.
9. Keep all lawsuits related to the BP Oil Flood and its aftermath in Louisiana, and instruct the DOJ and States’ Attorney General to hold BP, Halliburton and Transocean accountable to the furthest extent possible under the law.
10. Found a two-decade TVA-Style Gulf Coast Authority that rebuilds sea walls, levees, coastlines, and wetlands, with a dedicated fund for fishermen and related industries to provide economic relief for those put out of work because of the disaster.

(From: murderedgulf.wordpress.com)

Despite pelting rain and occasional blasts of thunder, some 200 people gathered in New Orleans’ French Quarter on Sunday to hear speakers demand the ouster of BP and other oil giants from the gulf region and to plead for volunteerism to save turtles, birds and other wildlife.

[30 Days of New Life note: We estimate the crowd to have been closer to 2000 people over the duration the event]

Organized by locals in the last week, the rally was publicized through social networking sites, including Twitter and a Facebook group, BP Oil Flood Protest. Homemade signs waved by the boisterous crowd spoke to the anger: “Brass balls, not tar balls,” “BP oil pigs” and “Kill the well now.” And one sign, “BP sleeps with MMS” spoke to what President Obama has called a “cozy” relationship between oil companies and federal regulators at the Minerals Management Service.

Many speakers, including the president of the United Commercial Fishermen’s Assn. and an environmental studies professor from Loyola University in New Orleans, assailed what they saw as the inadequacy of BP’s response to the spill. More people took the stage after showing up and asking to have their say.

“I’m a little upset that the perpetrators of a crime that killed 11 people are still in charge of the crime site,” said musician Dr. John, an impromptu speaker, referring to the crew members who died after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig April 20.

Dr. John, whose formal name is Malcolm John Rebennack Jr., was handed a red bullhorn by rally organizers. At times, speakers’ words were briefly drowned out by the blasts from boats plying the Mississippi River nearby.

Actor Tim Robbins, who has been shooting a movie in New Orleans, was another unexpected arrival. He did not speak to the crowd, but he said on the sidelines that a flight he had taken over the spill area about 10 days ago had convinced him it was far worse than most people imagined. “We got down below 3,000 feet and saw huge, huge globs of oil about to hit Raccoon Island,” Robbins said of the barrier island that is one of Louisiana’s most important seabird nesting sites.

One speaker was Dean Blanchard, who owns one of the largest shrimping businesses in the gulf. He said he is worried about keeping Dean Blanchard Seafood Inc. alive. He employs more than 1,400 boats and about 6,000 people. Through a thick Creole accent, Blanchard said in an interview that May to July is usually the busiest time of year and that he and his staff had initially bet that shrimping this year would reach an all-time high. Now, he said, “I’ve cried more in the past couple weeks than in the past 30 years….They’re shutting me down.”

Patrick Brower, 32, wore a beige shirt that read, “Make wetlands, not oil.” When he heard Sunday that BP’s so-called top-kill operation to plug the well had failed, he said he was devastated. Noting that the hurricane season starts June 1, he said, “We could have oil in the city.”

Mary Ann Bohlke, 66, said she was at the protest because the gulf is “our life.” Clutching an umbrella, Bohlke teared up while talking about the effect of the spill. “It’s the second time that we’ve been trashed,” she said, referring to Hurricane Katrina. “The country’s watching us go down.”

Doc Mancina, who owns a sushi restaurant near the French Quarter, said he’s been forced to purchase more expensive frozen seafood to stay stocked. “It starts to add up,” he said, adding that it’s costing his restaurant an extra $15,000 a month. “We’re already fragile after Katrina,” he said, holding a sign reading, “Oil’s not well in Louisiana.” “It just brings back the feelings of isolation and loneliness.“Librarian Danielle Brutsche, 37, wore a shirt that read, “Our addiction to oil is killing us.” In between clapping for speakers, she said she believes the effects of the spill will be much more long-lasting than that of Hurricane Katrina. “It’s like a nightmare you can’t wake up from,” she said.

This being New Orleans, however, all was not gloomy. Up the street, the crowd crammed into Café du Monde to eat beignets was even bigger than the one at the rally in Jackson Square. And two of the protesters were dressed in costume.

Yellow horns made of construction tape protruded from hard hats worn by William Horswood and Craig Harlson. Dressed in white jumpsuits, they had adorned themselves with red paint and gray shoe polish and headed to the protest with wire “oil-soaked” plastic birds around their necks. “It’s New Orleans,” said Horswood, 46. “You have to do a costume.”

(From: LA Times Blog)

Coincidentally, we met the organizer of the event, Henry Thomas, at Electric Ladyland Tattoo shop a few days before the rally. He was pretty nervous about the potential size of the crowd and asked our team to help with “security” for the event. Essentially this meant distributing fliers, keeping the sidewalk free and moving, and keeping people out of Decatur Street. It was tough at times, but everyone was pretty cooperative. Before the protest we met at Henry’s house uptown. We adorned arm bands to identify ourselves and listened to our instructions. It was made clear time and again that this was a peaceful, pro-New Orleans, pro-Louisiana event. At around noon we all moved down to the protest site, the “amphitheater” located adjacent to Jackson Square. The sky opened up, rained poured down and we scattered for cover to await 1pm and the start of the protest. Luckily, close to 1pm the rain subsided and we took our place, the band began to play and the attendees started to arrive. Six invited speakers united and energized the crowd and offered various ways that everyone could lend a hand in the cleanup. We estimate that close to 2000 people participated in the demonstration during the duration of the event. Nationally recognizable attendees included Spike Lee and Tim Robbins.

The invited speakers included:

George Barisich, President of the United Commercial Fishermans Associaition
Evan Wolf, Lousiana Nation Guardsman
Dean Blanchard, Owner of Dean Blanchard Seafood
Paul Orr, Lower Missippii Riverkeeper
Cliff JohnSon, Co-Founder of the Southeast Louisiana Shrimp Alliance
Professor John P. Clark, Loyola Environmental Studies Program

Posted in New Orleans and tagged .

Leave a Reply