Campaigners have condemn heavy-handed policing after a light hearted protest aimed at drawing attention to Olympic corporate sponsorship ended with the arrest of the participants.
The mock awards ceremony at the Olympic Clock in Trafalgar Square descended into farce today after 25 police officers moved in and arrested six people taking part.
Three people pretending to be corporate representatives from BP, Dow and Rio Tinto were awarded gold medals for being the worst corporate sponsors of the Olympics, before having small quantities of green custard poured over their heads.
The good-natured performance took about 15 minutes and was clearly amusing a number of passers by.
However after the ceremony was over and the performers were packing up, about 25 police officers arrived and arrested six people, including the three corporate representatives and others who were mopping up the small amounts of custard on the ground with paper towels.
When confronted, the police officers alleged that ‘criminal damage’ had been done by custard falling on to the stone surface of Trafalgar Square. Before the arrested were even driven away, the controversial custard had been completely cleaned up leaving no trace whatsoever.
One of the arrests was Laurie Flynn, the Chair of Trustees of the Bhopal Medical Appeal who was only observing the event and happened to have picked up the fake medals as part of the tidy-up.
The arrests took place despite Chairman of the London Olympics, Lord Coe, having previously boasted of the UK’s democratic openness, stating: “[the United Kingdom] is a democratic nation, we have a tradition of peaceful demonstrations as long as it doesn’t become a public order issue, we take it as that”.
The Greenwash Gold Ceremony was the culmination of a three month campaign in which members of the public were invited to vote online for who they thought was the worst corporate sponsor. The awards were compered by Meredith Alexander, the ex ‘Olympics ethics Csar’ who resigned over controversies surrounding Olympic sponsors.
Ms Alexander, who witnessed the arrests said:
“It’s an Olympic sized overreaction to arrest people just for telling the truth about the Sponsors. Dow Chemical, BP, and Rio Tinto have bought themselves a global opportunity to present a friendly face.
“Greenwash Gold was set up to tell the other side of the story – the toxic legacy that each of these companies have left behind. It’s outrageous to think that a 15 minute street performance and some green custard required the attention of around 25 police officers.
“If the companies can’t stand a bit of critical attention, they shouldn’t have sponsored London 2012, which is meant to be the greenest games ever.”
Colin Toogood, of the Bhopal Medical Appdeal, said:
“After Lord Coe’s own statement claiming he supported peaceful protests, these arrests look like giving LOCOG yet another PR headache. This was a peaceful and legitimate protest, against terrible corporate sponsors, and protesters seem to have been arrested for spilling a small amount of custard!”
Kevin Smith of London Mining Network said:
“Arresting people over small quantities of spilt custard is incredibly heavy handed policing. Peoples’ freedom of expression is being sacrificed at the Olympics in favour of the protection of the brands of controversial sponsors like BP, Dow and Rio Tinto.”
Despite promising on 30th March to meet the campaign group, and having been sent a registered letter by the Bhopal Medical Appeal, on 2nd April, neither Lord Coe, nor LOCOG, have made any attempt to contact the group.
The Bhopal disaster was a gas leak incident in India, considered one of the world’s worst industrial catastrophes. It occurred on the night of December 2–3, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh and led to the deaths of thousands of local residents and caused over half a million injuries.