Shell is trying to stifle your freedom of expression

September 21, 2012

Greenpeace activists, one dressed in a polar bear costume, shut down a Shell petrol station in Amsterdam. They hold banners reading "Stop Shell Save the Arctic". The same action has taken place in more than 57 Shell petrol stations throughout the Netherlands in protest against the oil company's first attempt to drill for oil in the pristine Arctic last Sunday 9th September.

© Michiel Wijnbergh / Greenpeace

[caption id="attachment_10401" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="Greenpeace activists shut down a Shell petrol station in Amsterdam."][/caption] Last Friday, activists from Greenpeace Netherlandsshowed up in Shell gas stationsin their country and blocked the petrol pumps. They were protesting against Shells reckless Arctic drilling plans which has since then been suspended for this year. Their reasons for taking peaceful direct action were simple: the Arctic is under extreme threat from climate change. Just yesterday, it was announced thatArctic sea ice was at its lowest extent ever in recorded history. This disastrous sea ice melt is caused by companies like Shell, who for decades have encouraged societys fossil fuel addiction. To allow Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic will only make a catastrophic situation even worse. In addition, theArctic is more vulnerable to oil spillsthan other regions on the planet. The weather conditions mean drilling is perilous. If a spill does occur, the presence of ice makes recovery and clean up more difficult. If an incident happens towards the end of the summer drilling window, it could be too late to cap it, and oil could leak unstopped all winter, stuck under the sea ice. We know what oil spills look like in the Arctic on land already, and its not pretty. So, on the one hand we have an NGO with a smattering of activists, some of them dressed up as polar bears, going around petrol stations and alarming customers of Shells plans. On the other hand, we have a company already guilty of causing catastrophic climate change that is also trying to start an extremely reckless oil operation in the Arctic. One of these two is currently demanding that a judge order the other to stop all dangerous operations, and asking that they pay 1 million euros if they break this interdict. Care to guess which is which? Yes, you got it! Shell is demanding reparations from Greenpeace. Here is the exact demand: 1. Shell requests the judge to "forbid defendants (GPNL & GPI) to organise any activities, at least illegal activities, on or within 500m of any petrol stations of (licensees/tenants of) Shell, offices and other commercial properties and/or terrains of Shell in the Netherlands, or forbid defendants for a period of six months after delivery of this judgment to render impossible, prevent or interfere with the free and unhindered use of plaintiffs of the petrol stations of (licensees/tenants of) Shell, and/or its (office)buildings and/or its other commercial properties and/or terrains owned by, rented or otherwise in use by Shell, or to incite their employees, hired third parties or their sympathisers to do so, such at a penalty of EUR 1,000,000 instantly in case of violation, to be increased with an amount of EUR 100,000 for every day or part of a day that a violation of such order lasts." 2. Shell requests the judge to "order defendants (GPNL & GPI), within one hour after the bailiff delivers the judgment in this case to defendants in person, to instruct their employees, hired third parties and sympathisers to refrain from any activity which, in the next six months after delivery of this judgment, renders impossible, prevents or interferes with the free and unhindered use of plaintiffs of the petrol stations of (licensees/tenants of) Shell, and/or its (office)buildings and/or its other commercial properties and/or terrains owned by, rented or otherwise in use by Shell, such at a penalty of EUR 1,000,000 instantly in case of violation, to be increased with an amount of EUR 100,000 for every day or part of a day that a violation of such order lasts." This matters not only to Greenpeace's right to protest, but also yours. See that little line on point number two about "sympathisers"? If youve signed a petition against Shell, if youasked for protection for the Arctic thatsyou. It meansyourright to protest,yourfreedom of expression is on the line. Seems like a bit much? We think so too, which is why today, we went to court in Amsterdam to contest this outrageous demand.

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