On May 11, the day before Dow’s annual Shareholder meeting, several protests organized by Amnesty International, the Association for India’s Development, and Students for Bhopal targeted Dow facilities across the United States.
With less than a week of preparation, members of Amnesty International (AI) and the Association for India’s Development (AID), with assistance from Students for Bhopal, organized a protest at Dow’s San Diego research and development facility to remind Dow employees and executives of Dow’s moral and legal obligations to survivors of the 1984 Bhopal disaster.
For several hours on the morning of May 11, a dozen protesters informed Dow employees and many others passing by of the tragic legacy of the Bhopal disaster and its continuing effects. Prior to the protest, Kathy Smith, a member of both AI and AID, was interviewed on radioActive San Diego, a local independent radio station, along with H. Rajan Sharma, a lawyer pursuing justice for the victims of the Bhopal gas explosion in the New York court. Mr. Sharma provided details regarding the current conditions of the Bhopal victim and the status of their legal appeals. Ms. Smith described the protest and its goals as well as discussing Amnesty International’s recent report of the disaster, “Clouds of Injustice: Bhopal disaster 20 Years on.”
On the afternoon of the protest, there were 12 of us (pretty good for two days notice). Dow-Carbide (and yes they still have signage that says Union Carbide) plant folks knew we were coming or had seen us in the parking lot. They locked the entrance for visitors and the visitor parking lot (which wasn’t locked last night or the night before when we stopped by for a visit.)
But we had come with the “fake” contaminated water, a slightly used “jhadoo”, Amnesty’s report and tons of signs that many worked on late last night, so there wasn’t any going back. Only four of us went to make the delivery. The rest headed to Hwy 29 intersection near the plant to demonstrate.
As we were wondering how to get in the plant, a man came towards us. At first it looked like he may let us come by the visitor area but then he was firm and said he couldn’t let us get on Dow’s premises. So, the “delivery” which lasted about 10 minutes took place behind a chained fence. Govind videotaped the whole thing and Naga was on the camera. Laura and I spoke to the Plant lead/Manager who was sent or came out to deal with us.
He had an official Dow-Union Carbide statement for us (it was a printout from their website). He was very polite, listened to us, took the broom, water, report etc. and promised to take our concerns to his associates. He told us that that was all he would be able to do. This is a fairly small Dow-Carbide plant and has been around since 1973 so the Plant Lead/Manager remembered Bhopal and wanted us to know that he felt badly for what happened and what has been going on.
We went back and joined others holding signs near the highway. Some people stopped and took flyers from us – including delivery truck drivers. We ended by marching back to the plant and around it with slogans. We started with “jhadoo maro DOW ko” and switched to “Justice in Bhopal. Dow Clean up” because it would be understood by others and easier to pronounce for everyone.
One thing we noticed was that some of the signs didn’t mention DOW Chemical, for those driving by who didn’t know anything it would have been difficult to figure out why we were there. On an interesting note, there was a driving school in the corner where we were standing and the owner came out and spoke to Bindu & took a flyer. Instead of being upset that we were right in front of his signage, he told her that he didn’t like Dow and was glad that we were out there.
On May 11, Amnesty International members and supporters from South Portland High School and the greater Portland area organized a vigil to remember Bhopal.
“Just after sunset, students and activists joined together for a candlelight remembrance ceremony for the victims of Bhopal. The vigil was held in downtown Portland’s Tommy’s Park. With informational posters on display, candles and incense, I led the ceremony, remembering the victims and dedicating the evening also to those still suffering around the world. After a moment of silence, those in attendance were able to sign postcards to send to Dow Chemical, and to get more information about Amnesty International’s Corporate Action Network.”