Diane Wilson, “famed shrimp-boat-captain-turned-activist and merciless scourge of Dow”, attends a Texan court on Monday, 26 Jan for a jury trial. She’s facing charges of criminal trespass and resisting arrest, stemming from her August, 2002 protest action at the former Carbide plant in Seadrift, Texas. If convicted, Diane will have to serve around three to six months in jail. For climbing over a low fence and up a 90ft tower, damaging nothing and harming no one. During the action, Diane herself was harmed, however, by four members of a SWAT team who gouged at her hands and cut her arm. You can read Diane’s gripping and funny account of the action here.
In July 2002, a month prior to the offending 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. You can read the amazing diary of this time here. Remarkably, it was not the first time Diane had risked her health for a higher value. “You have to follow your vision and maintain your integrity,” Diane told Futurenet of a previous battle with Formosa Plastics, responsible for polluting the bay she and four generations of her family fished in. “Once you cross the commitment boundary, miracles start to happen.” Such a miracle saved a relative – but not Diane’s dog – from bullets fired from a helicopter during the fight with Formosa. “When you can smell your (own) fear, you’re on the right track.”
The only fear we smell in this case is Dow’s; fear that their criminal disregard for human life in Bhopal and elsewhere will be dragged into the light. In bringing the criminal complaint against Diane for a technical infringement of rules of trespass, it would appear that Dow hold an evangelical belief in the letter of the law. Well, it’s either this or that the company responsible for harbouring mass homicidal “fugitive from justice” Carbide is a vicious and brazen hypocrite. Thankfully Dow spokesman Jon Musser settled this quandary for us last month, when he answered a question about pending homicide charges put by the Michigan Daily News: “the Indian government has no jurisdiction over Union Carbide or Mr. Anderson; therefore, they are not appearing in court.” 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.”
If you’d like to tell Dow what you think of their double standards, read on.
If, like Diane, you’ve decided that “there comes a time when you simply have to act”, there are a few things you could do right now.
THINGS YOU CAN DO
Send a letter of protest – model DOC1 here – to:
Dan W. Heard
Calhoun County Criminal District Attorney
PO Box 1001
Port Lavaca, Texas 77979
Attorney General of Texas
Office of the Attorney General
PO Box 12548
Austin, TX 78711-2548
Diane’s local newspaper (letters page):
The Port Lavaca Wave
107 East Austin
P.O. Box 88
1. Call Dow HQ in Michigan on 1-800-232-2436 demanding that Dow accept its liabilities and clean up its mess in Bhopal (see full list of demands at the bottom of the page). Gee up on the facts beforehand.
2. Demonstrate outside your nearest Dow facility. Same demands. Give them brooms so they get the point. List of Dow facilities:
India and the Middle East
You can find 20 downloadble posters for these actions here. Other resources here.
3. Email strong protests to Dow media contacts listed here. Alternatively, go straight to the horse’s mouth: email@example.com . Try adapting this style of address for other Dow personnel, such as the Dow board members. You can find a list of them here.
5. If you’re a student, join Students For Bhopal and get your campus active.
6. If you are a citizen, write to your nearest elected representative and urge them to to write to Dow demanding they accept their responsibilities in Bhopal. Ask them to raise the issue in the appropriate forum.
8. Copy this and pass it on to your friends. (We can’t afford advertising.)
10. Let us know what you’re doing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Embargoed Until 12.01am, Monday 26th Jan 2003
Texan Fisherwoman’s Bhopal Protest Ends in Criminal Case
Dow Chemical Making ‘A Mockery of the Law’
Port Lavaca, Texas, 9.00 am, 26 Jan – Local fisherwoman and environmental campaigner Diane Wilson appears in court today for a jury trial relating to a protest action at The Dow Chemical Company’s Seadrift plant.
On 26th August, 2002, Ms Wilson scaled a 90ft tower and unfurled a 12 ft banner that read ‘Dow – Responsible For Bhopal’, referring to the world’s worst industrial disaster, caused when 27 tons of poison gases escaped from a Union Carbide pesticide factory, killing thousands within hours and injuring more than 500,000 other people in the sleeping city.
As a result of the action Ms Wilson faces charges of criminal trespass and resisting arrest that could lead to six months in jail.
Ms Wilson, who had ended a 30-day hunger-strike outside the Seadrift plant before scaling the ethylene oxide tower, was yesterday unrepentant.
“I was protesting that for 12 years Dow’s subsidiary Union Carbide has been refusing to attend a court in India where it stands charged with culpable homicide for the deaths of more than 20,000 people. Carbide killed thousands then jumped bail, I never harmed a soul but it’s me in the dock facing criminal charges. Truly, companies like Dow make a mockery of justice. They invoke the law when it suits them and ignore it when it doesn’t.”
The criminal case against Union Carbide and its former CEO Warren Anderson has been ongoing since October 1991. In 1992, an Indian court published notices in the Washington Post declaring both parties “fugitives from justice” after they avoided service of arrest warrants delivered by Interpol. Dow became the 100% owner of Union Carbide in February 2001, despite widespread warnings about the criminal charges outstanding against the company. Carbide also faces a Class Action in New York regarding massive environmental contamination left at its former factory in Bhopal.
On May 26th 2003, following widespread protests in India and elsewhere, the Indian government asked the US authorities for Warren Anderson’s extradition to face trial in India. Anderson remains at large and Dow refuses to pay for cleaning up the toxic wastes left by Union Carbide at the factory site.
Last year, Congressman Frank Pallone and a dozen of his colleagues in the House wrote a letter to Dow and filed an amicus in the New York action.
“It’s outrageous that we will soon mark the 20th Anniversary of this tragic event and Dow Chemical has still not stepped forward to take full responsibility for the actions of Union Carbide,” Pallone said recently. “It is unacceptable to allow an American company not only the opportunity to exploit international borders and legal jurisdictions but also the ability to evade civil and criminal liability for environmental pollution and abuses committed overseas.”
Health workers in Bhopal say that chemicals leaking from Union Carbide’s abandoned and derelict factory have poisoned local drinking wells with carcinogens that can cause liver damage, cancers and birth defects, creating another health epidemic among communities already exposed to the original disaster. Dow does not dispute that the chemicals come from the factory but has suggested that the clean-up should be paid for by the victims of the disaster out of the fund established for their relief.
Nearly 20 years after the catastrophe that local people still simply call “that night”, Bhopal’s doctors have no proper medical protocols for treating the city’s 150,000 chronically ill. Crucial medical data from more than 15 studies into the long term effects of the poisons, which could save lives, is still being withheld by Union Carbide on the grounds that it is a “trade secret”.
“In such cases,” Ms Wilson said, “good citizens have not just the right but also the duty to protest. We cannot stand by and watch Dow and Union Carbide thumbing their noses at the law while their victims die — it’s a measure of how far they can pervert justice that protesting against their law-breaking is portrayed as a criminal act.”
Ms. Wilson added that, if imprisoned, she would continue her protest and begin an indefinite hungerstrike in jail.
Diane Wilson, 361-785-3907, cell phone- 361-676-0663
Claire from CodePink, 310-827-3046, www.codepinkalert.org
Ms Wilson’s protest focussed on the following demands of Dow:
1) Face Trial : Ensure that Union Carbide ceases to abscond from the
Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Bhopal and that authorized
representatives of Dow-Union Carbide face trial in the Bhopal.
2) Provide long term health care: Assume responsibility for the continuing
and long term health consequences among the exposed persons and their
children. This includes medical care, health monitoring and necessary
research studies. The company must provide all information on the health
consequences of the leaked gases.
3) Clean up the poison: Clean up toxic wastes and contaminated
groundwater in and around the Union Carbide factory site. Provide safe
drinking water to the community, and just compensation for those who
have been injured or made ill by this contamination.
4) Provide Economic and social support : The corporation must provide
income opportunities to victims who can not pursue their usual trade as a
result of exposure induced illnesses and income support to families
rendered destitute due to death or incapacitation of the breadwinner of the
Diane Wilson chained to Dow’s ethylene oxide tower & outside Warren Anderson’s house a few weeks later…