MAC: Mines and Communities

Olympic protestors carpeted for "green wash" demo

Published by MAC on 2012-07-24
Source: Statement, Guardian (2012-07-20)

But Rio Tinto, Dow & BP are still at large

Britain's biggest mining company, Rio Tinto, was sole supplier of metals for the medals that will be handed to finalists at the 2102 Olympic Games, opening in London this week.

Scandalised at the prospect, a number of organisations, including the world's leading mineworkers' union, have striven - valiantly but in vain - to "kick Rio Tinto off the podium". See: Rio Tinto's "Great Olympic Greenwash"

Two other financial backers of the Games, Dow Chemical and BP, were also accused by campaigners of serious environmental offences.

In a recent public poll Rio Tinto won out against its two rivals for the dubious accolade of  being the 2012 Olympic's "worst" corporate sponsor.

The company received due acknowledgment of this in the form of a mock gold medal, presented to staff at its London headquarters last Friday.

Countdown with Custard *

Shortly afterwards, a small group of activists assembled at the Olympic "countdown" clock in Trafalgar Square.

To symbolise the three companies' attempts at "green washing" their shabby reputations, three of the activists then had lurid, greenish, custard poured upon their heads.

A quarter of an hour after this brief demonstration, police arrested six participants.

Although later released, they now face potentially serious charges of causing "criminal damage" - despite several eye-witnesses being ready to testify that no damage occurred.

Of course,  Rio Tinto, Dow Chemical and BP aren't likely to face similar charges.

That's unless we count indictment of their practices in various "courts of public opinion" around the world.

You can view the action in Traflagar Square in a short video at: http://youtu.be/cexokAVPEPs

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* London Cooking comments: Custard making, consumption and propulsion, is a time-honoured tradition. Originally, the dessert consisted of a carefully-simmered mix of egg yolks, sugar, milk or cream, flavoured with vanilla. However, most of today's concoctions rely upon starch to replace the yolks, and can be whipped-up in minutes.

We're informed that last Friday's demonstrators relied upon a proprietary brand of the mix, made with organic soya milk in order not to offend vegan sensibilities.

Alas, we cannot divulge the name of the brand they used because, under specially-introduced UK legislation to protect the profits of official sponsors of the Olympic Games, only certain products can be publicly-named (and Provamel isn't one of these).

The throwing of custard pies at an adversary has long been a staple of "slapstick" comedy films and vaudeville turns. There's also an honourable precedent of propelling these "soft" missiles at political or other public figures.

But here's a warning for those who seek to follow in the same footsteps: last year, a critic of Rupert Murdoch attempted to push a custard pie into the news-mogul's face at a London public hearing.

He was arrested and sentenced to six weeks behind bars.

For further discussion of the use of culinary props in anti-mining demonstrations, see: London Calling applauds coal protesters who created a stink in Vancouver

Olympic Protesters Arrested for Spilling Custard

London Mining Network

20 July 2012

Campaigners condemn heavy-handed policing of Greenwash Gold Award ceremony

A mock awards ceremony at the Olympic Clock in Trafalgar Square descended into farce today after police arrested six people taking part. Three people pretending to be corporate representatives from BP, Dow and Rio Tinto were awarded gold medals for being the worst corporate sponsors of the Olympics, before having small quantities of green custard poured over their heads. The good-natured performance took about 15 minutes and was clearly amusing a number of passers by.

Olympics protestors give Olympic sponsors their just desserts
Olympics protestors give Olympic sponsors their just deserts
Photo: Greenweash Gold

After the ceremony was over and the performers were packing up, about 25 police officers arrived and arrested six people, including the three corporate representatives and people who were mopping up the small amounts of custard on the ground with paper towels.

When confronted, the police officers alleged that 'criminal damage' had been done by custard falling on to the stone surface of Trafalgar Square. Before the arrested were even driven away, the controversial custard had been completely cleaned up leaving no trace whatsoever.

One of the arrests was Laurie Flynn, the Chair of Trustees of the Bhopal Medical Appeal who was only observing the event and happened to have picked up the fake medals as part of the tidy-up.

The arrests took place despite the fact that Lord Coe himself has stated: "[the United Kingdom] is a democratic nation, we have a tradition of peaceful demonstrations as long as it doesn't become a public order issue, we take it as that". (See Notes)

The Greenwash Gold Ceremony was the culmination of a three month campaign in which members of the public were invited to vote online for they thought was the worst corporate sponsor. The awards were compered by Meredith Alexander, the ex ‘Olympics ethics csar' who resigned over controversies surrounding Olympic sponsors.

Kevin Smith of London Mining Network said:

"Arresting people over small quantities of spilt custard is incredibly heavy handed policing. Peoples' freedom of expression is being sacrificed at the Olympics in favour of the protection of the brands of controversial sponsors like BP, Dow and Rio Tinto."

Meredith Alexander who witnessed the arrests said:

"It's an Olympic sized overreaction to arrest people just for telling the truth about the Sponsors. Dow Chemical, BP, and Rio Tinto have bought themselves a global opportunity to present a friendly face. Greenwash Gold was set up to tell the other side of the story - the toxic legacy that each of these companies have left behind. It's outrageous to think that a 15 minute street performance and some green custard required the attention of around 25 police officers. If the companies can't stand a bit of critical attention, they shouldn't have sponsored London 2012, which is meant to be the greenest games ever."

Colin Toogood of the Bhopal Medical Appeal said:

"After Lord Coe's own statement claiming he supported peaceful protests, these arrests look like giving LOCOG yet another PR headache. This was a peaceful and legitimate protest, against terrible corporate sponsors, and protesters seem to have been arrested for spilling a small amount of custard!"

For more information or comment, contact:
Kevin Smith, London Mining Network - 07847 830164

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Notes:

At the final pre-Olympic press conference of LOCOG and the IOC, on 30th March, Lord Coe made the statement that: "[the United Kingdom] is a democratic nation, we have a tradition of peaceful demonstrations as long as it doesn't become a public order issue, we take it as that".

He further stated that, after months of refusal, he was now ready to meet the Bhopal campaign groups. Neither Lord Coe, nor LOCOG, has made any attempt to contact the Bhopal Medical Appeal since then despite a registered letter, sent by the Bhopal Medical Appeal, on 2nd April, specifically requesting that meeting.


Police arrested actors for spilling custard, say Olympic protesters

Former Games commissioner says 25 officers took performers away in handcuffs at demonstration against sponsorship

Sandra Laville, crime correspondent

Guardian

20 July 2012

The former London 2012 "ethics tsar" Meredith Alexander has accused police of an "Olympic-sized overreaction", saying they broke up a theatre performance designed to highlight the problems of corporate sponsorship of the Games and arrested six people on suspicion of criminal damage for spilling custard.

Alexander, who was behind the event in Trafalgar Square in central London on Friday, quit her role as a commissioner of the Olympic sustainability watchdog earlier this year over the awarding of a £7m Olympic sponsorship deal to Dow Chemical. Dow owns Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), responsible for the 1984 gas disaster in Bhopal, India, which killed 25,000 people.

Alexander described how 25 police officers moved in after the 15-minute piece of theatre, which was performed to explain objections to sponsorship of the Olympics by companies such as Dow, BP and Rio Tinto.

Police sources confirmed that six individuals were arrested in Trafalgar Square for criminal damage. Alexander said the individuals were led away in handcuffs after green custard used in the show spilled on to the ground.

Three of those arrested were actors in the performance, the other three were in the process of cleaning up the custard, which had been poured over the actors.

Alexander said: "Dow, BP and Rio Tinto are spending millions to tell the public how sustainable they are. We did a 15-minute piece of theatre to reveal the truth and as a result of this piece of theatre 25 police officers turned up and six people were arrested. It is an Olympic-sized overreaction."

The performance - entitled Greenwash Gold 2012 awards - involved three actors representing the three companies having the green custard poured over their heads.

It is understood the police believed the green substance was paint, but Alexander denied this.

"We spilt a little bit of the green custard on the square and were in the process of cleaning it up when the police arrived," she said.

Kevin Smith of London Mining Network, which was involved in the performance, said: "It's ridiculously heavy-handed policing to arrest people for public theatre. The authorities are going to extreme lengths to protect the tarnished reputations of controversial Olympic sponsors like Dow."

A Scotland Yard spokesman confirmed seven people were arrested in Trafalgar Square on suspicion of criminal damage after reports of protesters "throwing" a green substance "believed to be custard".

The seven, three women aged 35, 37 and 51 and four men aged 24, 45, 64 and 66 remain in custody in London police stations, he added.

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