Diane vs. Dow

Feature story - 4 February, 2004
"When you can smell your own fear you are on the right track." This is the slogan that Diane Wilson, a famed "shrimp-boat-captain-turned-activist and merciless scourge of Dow" lives by. But the only fear we smell in this case is Dow's.

Greenpeace demands corporate responsibility from Dow Chemicals by holding a demonstration at the South Africa plant.

It's their fear that their criminal disregard for human life in Bhopal and elsewhere will be dragged into the spotlight. It's their fear that their failure to compensate the victims of the world's worst industrial accident will impact their precious stock value. It's their fear of being held accountable to anything, or anyone, but their own bottom line.

On January 29th, Diane was found guilty of criminal trespass and resisting arrest at the Calhoun County Court, Port Lavaca, in Texas. She's facing charges stemming from her August, 2002 protest action at the former Carbide plant in Seadrift, Texas. Diane is facing these charges for climbing over a low fence and up a 27 metre (90 foot) tower, damaging nothing and harming no one. During the action Diane herself was harmed by four members of a police team who gouged at her hands and cut her arm.

During sentencing, Judge Hernandez declared that Diane was dangerous and a menace to society. She's also facing a fine of US$2000-3000.

In July 2002, a month prior to her action, Diane explained why she was compelled to protest on behalf Bhopal's survivors: "Bhopal is a symbol of the unfinished business of justice that lies before all mankind." Diane knows what she's talking about, having visited Bhopal in 1992. The experience persuaded her to put her body on the line in the most literal way: she set up camp outside Dow and stopped eating for thirty days.

In bringing the criminal complaint against Diane for a technical infringement of rules of trespass, it would appear that the fear Dow smells is driving a vain attempt to shut down protest and silence criticism.

Greenpeace activists have also faced legal challenges due to their protest around the world.

As Diane puts it, "companies like Dow make a mockery of justice. They invoke the law when it suits them and ignore it when it doesn't."

Diane has been on a hunger strike since her conviction. This is her way to protest not the injustice of her trial, but to highlight the injustices of Bhopal.