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Fury at BP Turns Into Protests and Vandalism

Anger over the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is spilling into streets as protests are organized at BP’s offices and gas stations around the country.

Simulated oil splatter on a BP gas station sign in Manhattan, New York.
Photo: Johan Lammers
Simulated oil splatter on a BP gas station sign in Manhattan, New York.

A multi-group protest made up of environmental groups is planned for Friday in Washington D.C., for example, while a week of demonstrations in several cities was kicked off yesterday by a new campaign, Seize BP.

Besides the organized demonstrations, anti-BP Facebook accounts have popped up online. And in New York City, some one or several people have splattered what looks like brown paint on the logo of three different BP gas stations.

BP's inadequate response has left the public frustrated, said Allison Fisher, the energy organizer at Public Citizen, one of the groups organizing Friday's protest in Washington. “They’re looking for ways to express that.”

Friday’s protest organized by eight groups—Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Energy Action Coalition, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Hip Hop Caucus, Public Citizen and 350.org—will take place in front of BP’s headquarters.

It will include an inflatable oil barrel and an actor portraying BP CEO Tony Hayward in a prison jumpsuit.

Those organizations also hope their protest will bring attention to their foremost cause: reducing global warming and stopping offshore drilling.

“We’re hoping to capture that attention, get people engaged at this corporate level and channel it into climate work as well,” said Fisher.

After several protests in May, Seize BP kicked off a week of demonstrations on Thursday in Washington, New York and Chicago and has plans to continue into next week in 26 cities and towns across the country.

The group is pushing for the U.S. government to seize BP’s funds and place it in trusts now to help reimburse those affected by the oil spill, said Carl Messineo, spokesperson of Seize BP.

“We’re seeking urgent and immediate resolution,” said Messineo.

Online, the Boycott BP Facebook group has over 330,000 members, calling for a boycott of all of BP stations including their other brands including Castrol and Amoco. BP’s official Facebook group, by comparison, has just over 8,000 members.

BP did not return a call for comment.

The lengthy time frame for the slowly unfolding disaster—the leak started on April 20—“is a long enough time for people to get angry,” said Juliet Huck, CEO of TheHUCKGroup, a communications firm. Besides not finding a fix to the leak, a lack of communication with the public is also to blame for festering frustration. “The silence is what is creating this anger,” said Huck.

Anger has also turned to rage. Aside from the protests, at least three BP gas stations in New York City were vandalized with what appears to be black or brown paint on their signs.

“I think somebody got mad or something,” said Lucky Singh, the manager of a gas station in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood. He said that the splattered paint appeared on the stations highest signage two days ago, adding that someone was expected to stop by to clean it off on Thursday.

Despite the vandalism, Singh said business is still the same. “No one has complained or anything,” he said.

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