By Mark Wachtler
October 7, 2014. Cincinnati. (ONN) Eight Wall Street bankers each caused over $2 trillion in damages during the global economic collapse caused by their corporations’ fraud. None of them were investigated, much less charged and jailed. But eight Greenpeace activists are on trial facing a decade in prison because they each allegedly caused $2,000 in damage to Procter & Gamble’s Cincinnati headquarters during a protest earlier this year. The trial begins later this month.
8 Greenpeace activists go on trial this month for hanging these two banners on the Procter & Gamble corporate headquarters in Cincinnati. Image courtesy of CrooksAndLiars.com.
“In just a few weeks, eight Greenpeace activists, who last March participated in a peaceful protest at Procter & Gamble’s Cincinnati headquarters to protect Indonesian rainforest, will be going on trial,” Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard alerted the organization’s supporters last week, “They’re each facing two separate felony charges - burglary and vandalism - and if convicted, they could spend almost ten years in prison.”
Justice or state-sponsored political terror?
US organizers from Greenpeace are adamant in their accusation that local Ohio prosecutors and police aren’t prosecuting eight individuals for trespassing and minor property damage. Instead, the global grassroots organization insists government officials are terrorizing, intimidating and over-prosecuting their eight supporters as a favor to the area’s wealthiest resident, Proctor & Gamble.
For those two offenses - trespassing and vandalism - eight Greenpeace protesters are on the verge of spending the next decade of their lives in prison. The organization insists the entire effort is an organized corporate-government campaign of terror and intimidation against the world’s most well known and beloved environmental defenders. Most observers seem to agree that the heavy-handed prosecution is politically motivated and aimed at punishing protesters for publicly embarrassing one of the world’s richest and most powerful corporations.
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The crime and the details
In March of this year, Greenpeace activists from across America converged on the Cincinnati headquarters of Procter & Gamble. There, they protested the corporation’s massive deforestation of Indonesian rainforests in order to gather the natural resources required to manufacture many of the company’s consumer products. One of those ingredients is palm oil, which P&G uses in a host of its products like shampoo and various cosmetics.
A report from CrooksAndLiars.com at the time summed up the protest and ensuing arrests. ‘Nine activists with the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace rappelled down the 17-story twin towers of the Procter & Gamble headquarters in downtown Cincinnati today and unfurled two enormous banners to protest deforestation linked to palm oil,’ the account describes, ‘One of the 60-foot banners read: “Head and Shoulders wipes out dandruff and rain forests.” The other read: “Head & Shoulders: Stop putting tiger survival on the line.”’
In traditional Greenpeace style, the nine demonstrators did in fact enter the P&G buildings uninvited. There, they hung two gigantic banners, each five stories tall in their own right, from the corporation’s headquarters. According to Procter & Gamble executives, the activists caused $18,000 in damage to the buildings’ windows. Greenpeace insists both the damage report and the alleged costs are being exaggerated.
Immediately after the protest and arrests at their corporate headquarters, a P&G spokesperson made the following announcement, “Today's protest at our General Offices ended peacefully and our primary concerns were the safety of our employees, the security of our facilities and the safety of the protesters. We agree that deforestation is a significant issue which is why we are committed to the sustainable sourcing of palm oil. We have already pledged to reach 100% sustainable sourcing of palm oil by 2015 and we will continue to drive to that goal with urgency. Today's protest is now in the hands of local law enforcement.”
Chicago Greenpeace activist cops a plea
Secure in their belief that right is on their side, the nine Greenpeace activists vowed to fight the felony charges in court. Even the organization’s US Director Annie Leonard has promised to be in Cincinnati to attend the trial of the Greenpeace 8 in person to show the global group’s solidarity and support for the local activists whose freedom is now on the line.
Last month however, one of the nine charged activists pled guilty to a lesser offense in an agreement with prosecutors that included no jail time and only community service and a promise to repay P&G for the damaged property. The 35-year-old Chicago Greenpeace activist has no criminal record and his official sentencing is scheduled for November 12, 2014. The criminal trial of the remaining eight demonstrators is scheduled to begin October 27th.
Greenpeace vows to fight
If Procter & Gamble and local Ohio authorities want a fight, Greenpeace says it’s standing by its members and ready for one. “The charges in this case are an attempt to intimidate us and prevent more people from taking action - especially when it relates to large corporations like Procter & Gamble,” Greenpeace US Executive Director Annie Leonard appealed to supporters last week, “The eight individuals on trial in Cincinnati are prepared to accept the consequences of their actions for a cause they believe in. But they aren’t burglars. And they aren’t vandals. That’s why they’re going to trial. I’ll be there in person in Cincinnati during the trial doing everything I can to support the eight individuals and their case. You have a role to play too.”
Leonard’s appeal for help is aimed at grassroots social and political activists from all walks of life and all causes. “It’s important that we work together to protect the right to freedom of speech which allowed this action to take place, and which will continue to allow other activists to take direct action in the future,” the Greenpeace leader appealed to activists across America, “The right to peaceful protest is one of the single most important tools at our disposal, not only to protect the environment, but to bring about positive social change in a democracy. It should be allowed to be exercised without the fear of unjust legal consequences.”
Leonard only took the reins of Greenpeace USA five months ago. But she’s clearly showing she’s equal to the task. And she’s already earning the respect and devotion of the organizations’ precinct-level grassroots activists in a similar vein as a ‘players coach’ or a ‘soldiers General’. As one of those street-level protesters and a kindred spirit, this author can personally attest to how much it must mean to those eight scared demonstrators knowing that the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA is attending their trial in person, insuring their plight doesn’t go unnoticed and reminding the bullying corporate and public officials that literally millions are standing behind the Greenpeace 8.