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'Prosecute and seize BP's assets now!' cry rises

By Jesse Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Jun 11, 2010 - 12:11:45 PM

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Protestors across the street from White House demand President Obama act against BP. Photo:

( - Oil is still streaming into the Gulf of Mexico and BP efforts to fit a cap onto its broken wellhead did not halt the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

With pressure on the Obama administration to quell the environmental catastrophe, the federal government launched a criminal probe into a spill that now had tar balls washing ashore from the coasts of Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.

Woman holds up oil stained decoy duck during anti-BP protest.
“If we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be forceful in our response,” vowed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a press conference on June 1, after meeting with state and federal prosecutors in New Orleans.

Admiral Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, who is commanding the federal response to the disaster, recently told reporters, “I think we have to caution against over-optimism here.”

Adm. Allen noted approximately 1,000 gallons of oil was being collected but a large amount still escaped BP's cap and an estimated 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil was still spreading.

According to a BP press release, CEO Tony Hayward told investors in a phone conference, “Everyone at BP is heartbroken by this event, by the loss of life and by the damage to the environment and to the livelihoods of the people of the Gulf Coast. It should not have happened and we are bound and determined to learn every lesson to try and ensure it never happens again.”

But with the problem unresolved and gruesome images of dying wildlife spreading, environmental advocates and activists demanded Mr. Hayward be placed in handcuffs and BP's assets seized.

Phil Radford, president of Greenpeace, said, “The oil destroying our wetlands and the Gulf of Mexico is a tragic reminder of what we get when we let corporate polluters write our energy policy. BP must be held accountable for their crimes, and our government must stop listening to polluter lobbyists.”

Greenpeace was among the seven public interest groups joining Public Citizen in the streets of the nation's capital on June 4 to express public's outrage at BP's continued mismanagement of the crisis in the Gulf.

Members of Public Citizen said they went to the oil giant's offices in Washington, D.C., to express the “deep frustration of average Americans” by making a mock citizen's arrest of BP's CEO.

“BP has a long history of violating environmental and worker safety laws, as well as manipulating markets,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

“BP was ill-prepared for dealing with a deepwater spill and still cannot contain this gusher. People are outraged, and we are here to let BP know it,” he continued.

While protesting at the base of a 13-foot tall inflatable oil barrel, participating leaders read from a list of charges against the corporation and presented a prison jumpsuit fitted for Mr. Hayward, who they believe is ultimately accountable. Charges against BP that were read aloud by protesters included disregard for worker safety, price-gouging consumers and taxpayers and violations of environmental law.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., president of the Hip Hop Caucus, said at the rally, “All of God's children must hold BP accountable for the rape and plunder of our planet. It is time to strip BP of its corporate charter and ensure that its assets pay the victims, clean up the Gulf and try to restore the devastated wildlife.”

Protestors pointed out disparity in that charges have been brought against peaceful climate change activists, while not a single BP executive has been charged. Seven Greenpeace activists face felony charges for a peaceful protest in Louisiana May 24 as part of a call for the Obama administration to stop what they called the next potential oil drilling disaster in the Arctic.

Additionally, an employee at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network faces potential jail time for hanging a banner in a Senate office building last fall to urge the Senate to move toward clean energy.

“In the wake of the Gulf disaster, no one from BP has been arrested and sent to jail. Meanwhile, I am facing up to three years behind bars for peacefully hanging a banner urging the Senate to get to work on securing a desperately needed clean energy economy,” said Ted Glick, policy director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

“It's time we got our priorities straight and went after those who really are criminally negligent: Oil companies who have repeatedly demonstrated disregard for workers'lives and our wounded environment,” said Mr. Glick.

According to Public Citizen, at the beginning of 2009 BP had spent more than $19.5 million to hire 49 of the highest-powered D.C. lobbyists, including 35 former employees of Congress and the executive branch. The group believes this is one of the reasons why regulators who are supposed to oversee offshore drilling procedures have allowed BP run its operation however they see fit.

“Big Oil has been polluting the political process for too long,” said Ethan Nuss, co-field director of the Energy Action Coalition. “This fall, young people are organizing to kick dirty energy out of politics by flooding the midterm elections with support for real clean energy solutions. Big Oil may be able to outspend us, but we're the voters and that's what counts.”

According to the group Seize BP, a national week-long call to action has been made to get citizens to protest the oil company in their respective cities from June 3-10. “What everyone in the country wants to know from the Obama administration is whether the government will defend the interests of the people whose livelihoods have been destroyed and offer any hope of salvaging the environment in the Gulf of Mexico,” said a statement on the group's Web site.

Seize BP also warned a “criminal probe will last years. By then, the criminals at BP will have reorganized the company or dissolved it, with BP's assets handed over to some other big oil conglomerate before BP has to pay out. Its executives will be paid handsomely; the people whose lives it has destroyed will be left to suffer. The government must act now to seize BP's assets before the company reorganizes.”

At Final Call press time, President Obama had cancelled multiple overseas trips to land in New Orleans for his third visit to the area since the oil spill began. He met with local officials and media before once again surveying Grand Isle. Mr. Obama has said that the spill is his “top priority.”

From coast to coast, activists also put together demonstrations for the Seize BP week of action in their respective cities and towns.

Related news:

Runaway corporate greed haunts America (FCN, 06-02-2010)

Protesters charge British Petroleum with greed and negligence (FCN, 05-21-2010)