Mega-oil company protested

DALLAS – ExxonMobil oil company held its annual shareholders’ meeting May 29 in one of the poshest settings here, the Meyerson Symphony Hall, but they didn’t get to ignore the furor they have created around the world. Protesters included spokespersons from as far away as Colombia, Tibet, Indonesia and Russia.

With songs, signs, chants and visual arts, the protesters accused the giant transnational of economic and environmental devastation throughout the globe. Inside the Meyerson, minority stockholders forced votes on environmental issues and employment practices.

Leading up to the event, Dallas-area environmentalist and protest organizations held several public meetings, including mock trials. Their announcements prepared people for a well-orchestrated “counter-protest” staged by right-wing organizations with ties to the company.

In many ways, the pro-company demonstrators were more of a public embarrassment to ExxonMobil than the protests. Their signs ranged from obviously ridiculous to completely vulgar. The most numerous signs were professionally printed and included the comical phrase, “Thanks, ExxonMobil, for being a good corporate neighbor!” Individual statements included, “I love the smell of crude in the morning,” “Greens hate America,” “Greens suck” and the bizarre “Martian power plants caused the ice age.”

Their chants and slogans were heavily pro-capitalist and anti-communist. They made several attempts to provoke physical responses from the protesters and thus gain the help of police standing by, but they failed. Their chant, “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.,” dwindled to an embarrassed silence when the environmentalists joined in. When the protesters began a moment of silence for ExxonMobil’s worldwide victims, the company supporters jeered.

Protesters handed out fliers with the slogan, “Our Planet, Their Profit.” They asked people to check out www.stopexxonmobil.org for complete information about the mega-oil company’s role in the world.

They also handed out a flier revealing the financial sources of their opposition. It said that in 1998 Citizens for a Sound Economy received $13.9 million in donations, nearly all of it from major U.S. corporations. The oil and gas industry contributed $2.2 million; ExxonMobil gave more than $200,000.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org