Protesters thrown out of BP AGM

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A number of protesters have been ejected from BP's Annual General Meeting after attempting to storm the stage.

The group, dressed in matching T-shirts, were carried out of the Excel Centre in east London by security guards as BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg was involved in a heated discussion over oil extraction in Canadian tar-sands.

The group approached the stage in the auditorium, where the entire BP board was sitting, but were prevented from climbing on to the platform. Mr Svanberg paused the meeting, attended by thousands of shareholders, while the activists were removed and added that there had been a "little excitement".

Louisiana shrimp fisherwoman Tracy Kuhns, speaking outside the meeting, said she was angry, frustrated and embarrassed at being refused entry to the AGM by security officials.

"It was humiliating, like being treated like a criminal. We aren't here to cause trouble. We just wanted to have our voices heard. The shareholders need to hear it. We understand a business is supposed to make money, but you have to pay your costs before you get your profits."

She said BP had damaged her community, its businesses, the environment and people's health, including through chemicals they had sprayed to disperse the oil, and was not paying for what it had done. Her shrimp boat has not been out fishing since the oil disaster last April.

She added: "I'm thinking they must be really scared of us, they don't want the stockholders to hear what's really happening. They haven't really cleaned it up, they're not paying all the loss of the businesses, they're not paying for the health damage."

Inside the meeting, Mr Svanberg tried to interrupt US activist and author Antonia Juhasz as she read a statement from Keith Jones, father of Gordon Jones, one of the 11 men who died when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded last April. In the statement, Mr Jones said the blow-out could have been prevented, and that completing the well safely would just have taken a little more time. And he accused BP of taking chances with the safety of those on the rig.

A BP spokesman said the group of affected fishermen and women had been excluded because: "We have responsibility to run an orderly meeting that allows our shareholders to vote on resolutions and engage with the board. If we believe allowing individuals in may put this at risk we are in our rights to refuse access."

Jess Worth, of the UK Tar Sands Network, said people from the group had attempted to stage a peaceful, silent protest against the extraction of heavy oil from the tar sands of Canada, which she described as the "most destructive project on Earth". One woman was arrested for breach of the peace, police confirmed.