Justice for Bhopal at the University of Michigan has been so active
that we've divided this page into three sections:
Visit the University of Michigan
On May 6th, 2003, approximately 50 University students and faculty
attended an open discussion with two survivors of the Bhopal disaster,
Rashida Bi and Champa Devi. Both Rashida and Champa suffered
exposure to Union Carbide’s deadly gases on December 3rd,
1984; speaking through an interpreter (longtime Bhopal activist
Sathyu Sarangi), Rashida and Champa described the panicked flight
of thousands of Bhopal residents, and their own desperate dash for
safety. Both survivors spoke about the losses that their own families
had endured—Rashida lost five gas-exposed members of her family
to cancers, while Champa lost her husband—and discussed their
eighteen-year-long struggle for justice from the company. Rashida
and Champa—who were both on their sixth day of an indefinite
hunger strike, leading up to the Dow Shareholder meeting on May
8th—were able to speak and take questions for a little over
an hour. At the end of the session, the attendees gave both women
a standing round of ovation.
Read more in the Michigan
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On December 2nd, 2005, the Ann Arbor chapter of the Association
for India’s Development, EnAct, Environmental Justice and
Students for Bhopal co-sponsored several performances of a powerful
Bhopal performance on the Diag, the central crossroads of the University
of Michigan campus. The event was covered in the campus newspaper,
Michigan Daily, and over the course of the day several
hundred people watched the performance.
Writes the Daily:
“LSA junior Joseph Mathias and LSA senior Deetti Reddy rolled
on the ground while smoke emitted from a large black barrel in the
Diag on Friday. The performance was a part of the Students for Bhopal's
re-enactment of the Bhopal Tragedy, a chemical spill that killed
thousands of Indians nearly two decades ago.
of Michigan flag flew at half-staff
"’Not a lot of people know that the Bhopal disaster
ever happened,’ said performer Jeff Collins, a University
alum who works with Students for Bhopal, a student group that supports
reparations for victims of the disaster. ‘There is still responsibility
that has not been taken,’ Collins said. ‘Union Carbide
just picked up and left. (The chemicals are) all still there.’
Students for Bhopal wants Dow to clean up the toxins, face a trial,
provide long-term health care and provide economic support for the
The five-minute silent skit is an abstract reenactment of the 1984
Bhopal chemical disaster. Its purpose is to remind the public that
Dow's liability in Bhopal remains unresolved as people continue
to die from the effects of the toxic gas. The Dow Grim Reaper represents
Dow's culpability in these deaths. The person in white represents
those who have died. The person in red represents the injured, who
carry the legacy of the disaster in their blood. The person in gray
represents the rest of us, who are neither criminals nor victims,
but nonetheless must bury the dead, care for the injured, and demand
justice from Dow. Read the
script and watch a video (Quicktime:
24 MB) of the performance!
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Bhopal Memorial Donated
to University of Michigan
accepts the gift on behalf of the University of Michigan
On December 3rd, 2005, several students and supporters of the Bhopal
campaign joined together in the creation of a public art project,
memorializing the catastrophic disaster that happened 21 years ago.
Entitled “Bhopal”, the project featured seven large
“toxic waste” drums, each of which was covered with
stencils, writings and images representing such themes as “THAT
NIGHT,” “The Women’s Union,” and “Compensation”.
Each barrel also contains a sound installation, which will continue
to play this 3-minute clip
of powerful quotes and damning Carbide lies set against the mournful
backdrop of the Indian sitar.
A closeup of
one of the stencils
The project was presented to the University of Michigan at the
home of its President, Mary Sue Coleman. President Coleman was out
of town and unable to accept the gift in person, but Julie Peterson,
the University’s Vice President for Communications, was on
hand to accept the gift on behalf of the school. Jayanthi Reddy
from AID-Ann Arbor and Ryan Bodanyi from Students for Bhopal spoke
briefly about the disaster, its importance, and the local movement
to ensure that Bhopal is not forgotten. Julie Peterson also spoke,
echoing the importance of remembrance and thanking us for the gift
to the school. The barrels themselves will be displayed separately
in seven different buildings on the University of Michigan campus.
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- Demanding Corporate Accountability"
On April 5th, 2003, the Association for India's Development, Environmental
Action, Environmental Issues Commission, Environmental Justice,
Justice for Bhopal, Ecology Center, Environmental Health Watch,
Greenpeace, and Lone Tree Council all sponsored "Indecent Acts
- Demanding Corporate Accountability: A Conference On Dow Chemical
and Organizing Skills." Approximately 100 people attended to
learn about Dow's dioxin contamination in Midland, its liability
in Bhopal, and its global impact on the environment and human health.
Training workshops were also held to help teach students the skills
that they'll need to organize around Dow's contamination and liability
issues; Corporate Research, Greenwashing, Corporate Control of Science
and Education, and Radical Cheerleading sessions were only a few
of those featured. The keynote address was delivered by Sheldon
Rampton, the editor of PR Watch and author of, among other works,
"Toxic Sludge is Good for You: Lies, Damn Lies, and the Public
Relations Industry." Other environmental luminaries that attended
and presented included Gary Cohen and Joe DiGangi of the Environmental
Health Fund, David Wood of the GrassRoots Recycling Network, Nity
Jayaram and G Krishnaveni of the International Campaign for Justice
in Bhopal, Terry Miller of the Lone Tree Council, Casey Harrell
of Greenpeace, Monica Rohde Buckhorn of the Center for Health and
Environmental Justice, Phil Mattera of the Corporate Research Project,
and Mary Beth Doyle and Tracey Easthope of the Ecology Center of
Ann Arbor. The evening closed with a special reception at the Raghu
Rai photo exhibit on North Campus.
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of a Corporate Crime"
(click here for the news
On March 30, 2003, "Exposure: Portrait of a Corporate Crime.
Photographs of Bhopal by Raghu Rai" opened for its American
debut at the Pierpont Commons Piano Lounge on the University of
Michigan's North Campus. The exhibition, which features photographs
that were taken in the immediate aftermath of the Bhopal disaster,
captures the horror of the tragedy and documents a community in
trauma. Raghu Rai's photographs of Bhopal have become famous worldwide,
and his exhibition has been shown around the world. The exhibition
was on display at the University until April 12; as the photos were
exhibited in a high-traffic area, several hundred people are estimated
to have seen the exhibit during its time on campus. The exhibition
was sponsored by Justice for Bhopal, the Ecology Center, Greenpeace,
and the Association for India's Development (Ann Arbor), official
members of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.
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on the Diag
2nd and 3rd were the 18th anniversary of the Bhopal accident, and
Justice for Bhopal organized a two-day protest/re-enactment on the
Diag to educate UM students about the tragedy. Actual toxic waste
barrels, stenciled with a bleeding Dow logo, were roped off with
biohazard caution tape. Foaming dry ice simulated the gas leak while
coalition members dressed in biohazard suits set up tombstones,
held up banners, and displayed photos of the victims. Read our coverage
in the Michigan
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Justice for Bhopal
attends the AID Conference
On May 24-26, 2003, approximately a dozen members of the Justice
for Bhopal group traveled to Pittsburgh
to participate in the Association for India’s Development
(AID) annual conference. There, Shivani, Ryan, Dave and others spoke
about the successful campaign that had been launched at the University
of Michigan over the past year. Ryan also participated in a panel
discussion on the Bhopal campaign, which featured Rashida Bi and
Champa Devi, two survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak. Rashida
and Champa each spoke for half an hour about their own experiences
in the gas leak, and the collective effort by the Bhopal Gas Peedit
Mahila Stationary Karmachari Sangh (Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationary
Employees Union) to win the same wages and benefits as other state
employees—an aim that took over a decade to achieve. The members
of AID were all exceptionally supportive, and many offered to help
the campaign in whatever way they could.
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On Thursday, March 6 and on Sunday, March 9, 2003, Justice for
Bhopal sponsored two screenings of Mahesh Mathai's Bhopal Express,
the only feature film ever made about the Bhopal tragedy. Starring
Naseeruddin Shah, Zeenat Aman, Vijay Raaz, and Nethra Raghuraman,
the film is a human drama set against the Bhopal gas tragedy, and
unravels through the eyes of a newly wed couple and their friend.
The film had only been shown once before in the United States; it
is now touring in select cities around the U.S. Approximately 20
people attended the Thursday showing of the movie and 50 people
came to the Sunday screening. On both occasions people stayed afterward
for discussion and Q & A about the Bhopal tragedy.
More details about the movie can be found at www.bhopalexpress.com.
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The acclaimed filmmaker Nadeem Uddin came to campus on November
5th, 2002, to show his documentary, Bhopal Legacy, and
speak about his own experiences in Bhopal. Mr. Uddin was born in
Bhopal, and has spent years filming the site of the accident and
interviewing the people that it’s affected. Fifty people turned
out to see his film, planned for wide release sometime next year,
and many of them stayed afterward to watch the videotaped footage
of our confrontation with Michael Parker.
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Free Trade: A Closer Look at Bhopal"
On November 6th, 2002, Justice for Bhopal began the process of
educating the UM campus by showing two videos about the ongoing
catastrophe in Bhopal. The first film was an 18 minute informational
video about the tragedy and recent efforts to expose the contamination.
The video combined interviews with survivors, scientists and others
with stunning visual footage of the contamination. The second film,
India and Free Trade: A Closer Look at Bhopal (a documentary
by Pavithra Narayanan) focused on “free trade” and on
“winners and losers” in a free market economy. As a
case in point, it examined the Bhopal gas disaster and its implications
for developing economies all over the world. Thirty people turned
out for the showing and participated in the discussion afterward
about what could be done to win justice for Bhopal.
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Speak at the University of Michigan
In early May, 2004, Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla again spoke
at the University of Michigan, to a standing-room only crowd of
more than 50 students and supporters. Speaking through an interpreter
(longtime Bhopal activist Sathyu Sarangi), Rashida and Champa described
the panicked flight of thousands of Bhopal residents, and their
own desperate dash for safety. Both survivors spoke about the losses
that their own families had endured—Rashida lost five gas-exposed
members of her family to cancers, while Champa lost her husband—and
discussed their long struggle for justice from the company, as well
as the road ahead.
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"Focus on the Issues"
On Nov. 22nd, 2002, Shivani and Rob were rocking the airwaves in
an interview with Christian Knudson on “Focus on the Issues”
on WCBN 88.3. A Dow representative had been scheduled to debate
the two, but (not surprisingly) turned out to be a no-show.
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On December 5th, 2002, Shivani, Nadeem Uddin (a filmmaker from
Seattle), and Nupur Modi (a Greenpeace activist who was arrested
and beaten in Bhopal for attempting to contain the leaking Union
Carbide site) followed up our successes with an interview on a radio
station in Montana (of all places).
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"Alternative Press Review"
On April 1st, 2003, Shivani, Ryan, and Becca were all interviewed
about the Bhopal tragedy, the dioxin contamination in Midland, and
Dow's other bad acts on WCBN 88.3 FM. We discussed the upcoming
Dow Conference and the "Run for Your Life!" with Alex
Sergay of the "Alternative Press Review".
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Feature in the Daily
On January 9, 2003, the campaign for Justice in Bhopal at the University
of Michigan highlighted by a series of articles in The Michigan
Daily, all under the headline of "Bhopal's Chemical Winter".
which was spread across a full page of newsprint, included articles
on the tragedy itself, the state of the site today, the University's
association with Dow Chemical, and the need for student action.
The Daily articles can be found online at:
A Firsthand Account of the Site
University is Tied to Dow and Bhopal Disaster
Sketch of Bhopal's Tortured Legacy
the Dots: The University and Dow Co.
The Stains of Bhopal
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Halloween: Dow is
On October 31st, 2005, students from the Ann Arbor Chapter of AID,
EnAct, Environmental Justice, and other student organizations raised
awareness about Dow's crimes in Bhopal on a paticularly appropriate
day: Halloween. "We feel that Halloween is the perfect time
to highlight the unholy alliance that Dow and Death seem to have
made," said Deepa Pendse, a member of AID-Ann Arbor. They did
so by dressing up as the "Dow Grim Reaper" and haunting
the Dow Laboratories, partly funded by Dow Chemical. Body outlines
were also sketched in chalk around the building, hundreds of fliers
distributed, and giant banners hung from kiosks around campus.
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On Thursday at noon, in a demonstration of solidarity with the
Bhopal survivors’ march to Delhi, eight rowdy members of the
Ann Arbor Coalition for Justice in Bhopal stormed the University
of Michigan campus. Mounted on a shiny red bicycle-built-for-two,
the Dow Grim Reaper and the Personified Indian Government road in
circles around the main square in front of the graduate library,
by the jeers of a few sign-brandishing hecklers. Armed with an Indian
hand drum, I led the group in a caustic variation of the well-known
Dow and the Government, sittin’ in a tree,
First comes BLOOD, then comes DENIAL,
then comes Dow absconding from trial!
Meanwhile, two participants handed out flyers with information
about the March to Delhi and instructions for faxing the Prime Minister’s
After fifteen minutes, student traffic had settled down and our
supply of flyers was depleted. Launching the second stage of our
demonstration, we embarked on the “Minimarch for Justice”.
Dismounting from their mechanical steed, the Reaper and the Gov
joined hands to prance at the head of the procession, followed by
the hecklers, the drummer, and a valiant marcher who trudged under
the burden of an industrial-size steel barrel. At the end of our
short trek, we deposited this rusty titan in a small library at
the East Quad dormitory, where it will be on display for the next
couple weeks. The barrel is painted in fiery hues with images and
facts related to the Bhopal disaster. A collage of liquid sitar
tones and human voices, juxtaposing quotes from survivors, activists,
and Dow-Carbide spokesmen, issues from within the metallic cavern.
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On September 14, 2006, Rishi Singh, the former director of India's
NEERI (the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute),
came to the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources
to give a talk on environmental policy in India. After some invaluable
priming from Indra on NEERIs role in exacerbating the post-1984
Bhopal fiasco, I went to the conference prepared to ask some pointed
Mr. Singh's talk basically centered on the glorious ideals of the
Indian constitution, the many applications involved in trying to
realize these ideals, and NEERI's crucial role in making India's
strong environmental standards a reality. Needless to say, one of
the important steps he emphasized towards making environmental policy
work was making sure that it wasn't too strict for industry to keep
up. Poor industry...
Anyway, when he finally stopped talking, I asked my question, which
went something like this:
In 1997, NEERI released a study claiming that the groundwater
near the site of the 1984 for Union Carbide chemical disaster in
Bhopal was safe for drinking. However, only a few years later Greenpeace
did their own study and found that the water was extremely contaminated,
and not at all safe for drinking, and to this day it is generally
accepted to be toxic.
More recently, NEERI was involved in a failed cleanup effort
of the Union Carbide site in which local people were brought in
to clean up the toxic chemicals with bare hands and feet, after
which many of them were severely ill.
What effect do you think NEERI's involvement in such fiascoes
has on its credibility as an environmental research organization,
and even on your own credibility as an expert on environmental policy
Mr. Singh was silent for a moment. Then he began to explain that
he thought the research had been well done (even though it was obviously
wrong), that neither of these actions had taken place during his
time at NEERI, and that maybe I should read the 1996 report to understand
the idiosyncrasies of the researchers conclusions. He talked for
quite awhile and seemed to be well aware that everyone in the room
was aware of the inadequacies of his answers.
I replied: So then, NEERI accepts no responsibility for the
many people who are now extremely ill from drinking the water which
they claimed was safe?
Mr. Singh was silent for a long time. He looked at me and I looked
back at him. He didn't seem to be able to remove his gaze from my
own, and I was quite enjoying dragging the silence out as long as
possible. He kind of stuttered or murmured a bit a couple of times,
but no words came out. Finally, the host of the event, another hydrological
scientist who had invited him to give the talk stepped in and recounted
how, in his many decades of work, he had occasionally also done
studies that turned out to be flawed. After all, environmental science
is complex stuff, and everyone makes mistakes.
That was enough for me. The elephant was thoroughly in the room,
and I let Mr. Singh move on to other questions. Unfortunately for
him, he didn't seem to be able to get over the fact that he'd been
stumped. When other people asked him questions about entirely unrelated
things, for example the right to information act, he kept coming
back to the Bhopal issue as if maybe relating it that could somehow
put him in the clear. It was nice to see that, at least for those
15 minutes or so, he was having trouble shaking the issue.
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On Tuesday December 3rd, 2002, in the highlight of that week’s
events, Greenpeace activists and students from Justice for Bhopal
and AID - all members of the International Campaign for
Justice in Bhopal - confronted the CEO of the Dow Chemical Corporation,
Michael Parker, outside his home in Midland, Michigan. The visit,
organized by Justice for Bhopal to commemorate the anniversary of
the Bhopal tragedy, interrupted a lavish Christmas party at the
Parker home. Although the vigil candles, Bhopal banners, tombstones,
Parker “Wanted Posters” and other props didn’t
seem to distract the gleeful party goers, Michael Parker did step
outside and spar with us for approximately twenty minutes. The entire
event was videotaped and a local television station also filmed
the action and broadcast it on the 11 p.m. news.
Mr. Parker emphasized to the group that he remembered the exact
day on which the tragedy took place, and that he and others in the
chemical industry were deeply sympathetic to the plight of the victims
in Bhopal. However when we offered to buy him a plane ticket to
go to India to meet with the survivors and those still suffering,
he refused. When asked why, he replied, “there are a lot of
things that I have to do.”
The activists made it clear to Mr. Parker that we hold him personally
responsible for cleaning up Bhopal. Shivani Anil Patel, a student
from AID, attempted to give Mr. Parker a list of demands (including
that Dow clean up the site and properly compensate the victims),
but he refused to accept them. Mr. Parker continued to deny all
responsibility for cleaning up Bhopal, and told the activists that
he had no legal responsibility “whatsoever” to do so.
When Mr. Parker was reminded that courts both in the United States
and India were still considering the case, he assured everyone that
they would not decide against his company.
Parker made clear to the activists that he had “interfaced”
with several of the victims from Bhopal and lamented the poverty
that could be found throughout all of India. Jackie Downing, an
activist from Greenpeace, interrupted Mr. Parker to point out that
while Dow might not be responsible for all of the poverty in all
of India, it was Dow’s responsibility to clean up its mess
in Bhopal. “The polluter pays,” she told him. “That’s
your opinion,” he fired back.
Neglecting his dinner guests, Mr. Parker warned the group at several
points that there would be consequences for making the issue personal
and coming to his home. He told us to “consider very carefully”
whether such a strategy might, in fact, achieve the exact opposite
of what we intended. Dow’s spokesman John Musser later told
the University of Michigan’s student newspaper that the visit
was “pushing the limits” and represented an attempt
to intimidate Mr. Parker.
Before leaving the group, Mr. Parker told us how much he respected
us for coming out on such a cold evening. He confirmed that we had
“the best of intentions” and thanked us for our caring
and concern. He then stepped inside and rejoined his Christmas party.
Our visit was covered that night on WNEM Channel 5, and also received
coverage both in the Midland
Daily News and in the Michigan
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Protest at the 2003
Dow Shareholder's Meeting
On May 8th, 2003, fifteen Justice for Bhopal members converged
on Midland for the annual Dow Shareholder’s Meeting. They
joined members of the International Campaign for Bhopal (ICJB),
Bhopal activist Sathyu Sarangi, and two survivors of the Bhopal
disaster, Rashida Bi and Champa Devi. Rashida lost five gas-exposed
members of her family to cancers, and was left permanently semi-blind
by Union Carbide’s gases. Champa’s entire family, including
her husband and five children, were exposed to the gases; her husband
died afterwards of bladder cancer. On the day of the shareholder’s
meeting, Rashida and Champa were on their eighth day of an indefinite
hunger strike calling for Dow to take responsibility in Bhopal.
Three giant banners depicting the victims of Bhopal were raised
outside of the conference center, while Justice for Bhopal members
held signs and banners in silent protest. Rashida and Champa sat
quietly beneath the banners, wrapped in black saris while photographers
from several newspapers took photographs. Television news channels
5 and 12 were also there to record the protest for the evening news,
and Ryan was interviewed on the WIOG radio station.
Thanks to the generosity of several Dow shareholders, Rashida,
Champa, and other ICJB members were granted proxies to enter the
Dow shareholder meeting. There, during the question and answer session,
they demanded justice
from Dow’s current CEO, William Stavropolous, and the Dow
Board of Directors. Speaking through an interpreter, Rashida and
Champa both described their anguish at losing members of their families
to the gas, and the daily suffering they face from their own health
impacts. Rashida and Champa both made clear that they had been fasting
for eight days, and asked why Union Carbide continued to evade its
summons to stand trial in India, where the corporation is charged
with culpable homicide for the thousands of deaths in Bhopal. Mr.
Stavropolous replied by saying that "I really sympathize with
your personal situation, but...we cannot accept responsibility for
that issue." Mr. Stavropolous went on to deny—in a demonstrable
lie webcast around the world—that Union Carbide faces ANY
criminal charges in India.
The CEO was no less callous when he met with the Bhopal survivors
in a private session following the shareholder’s meeting.
Sathyu Sarangi, who served as interpreter, described the meeting
as “totally depressing. …He basically gestured so that
we could start speaking, and Rashida Bi told her story and Champa
Devi told her story (and) I interpreted, and
not a word from him,” Sarangi said. “He had this wooden
expression and at the end of it he spoke not one word, he got up
and said: ‘You must go and talk to your government. We’re
sorry, we can’t do anything.’”
After traveling halfway around the world Rashida and Champa, survivors
of the world’s worst industrial disaster, enduring the eighth
day of an indefinite hunger strike and bearing the scars of their
own gas exposure, received no sympathy from Dow’s Chief Executive.
This episode is only one more indication of how Dow’s corporate
culture can condone the continued poisoning of the people of Bhopal,
Plaquemine, Midland, Vietnam, and other places, and serves as only
one more example of the need for a national campaign that demands
justice from the Dow Chemical Corporation.
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Board Members on the 19th Anniversary
(click here for photos!)
"I spoke with the Ann Arbor folks, and they were enthusiastic
about their Return-to-Sender. They were met outside the CEO's home
by all the local television stations and newspapers, the police,
and an entire
squadron of Dow folks, led by the illustrious John Musser. Musser
gave them a letter telling them that none of the Board members would
come out to take the water. Instead they hid inside their homes
as the students (13 of them) held a candlelight vigil in front of
each house (Dow CEO William Stavropoulos & board members Pedro
Reinhard, Anthony Carbone, Arnold Allemang) and read the testimonial
of a Bhopal victim. The police and Dow folks followed the students
everywhere they went, and the Dow flunkies picked up the water that
the students left on each doorstep--but wouldn't do so on film."
Press Coverage includes the Midland
Daily News, Michigan
Daily, and the Saginaw News, as well as local television channels
25 (NBC), 12 (ABC) and 5 (CBS).
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Board on the 21st Anniversary
On December 1st, 2005, six members of the University of Michigan
community traveled to Midland, Michigan to talk to five members
of Dow’s Board of Directors – the folks responsible
for perpetuating the ongoing chemical terror in Bhopal. We weren’t
sure what to expect: in the past, Dow’s Board members have
refused to speak with
us, and fled when they knew we’d be arriving. So this
visit was a surprise, timed to catch the Board members off guard
and hopefully willing to speak about the disaster.
befuddled by Michigan students
We started at the CEO's home, Andrew Liveris. He was either not
home, or refused to come to the door, but we did leave a poster
taped on his door with a note for when he returned.
This was repeated at the home of Dow's Chief Financial Officer,
J. Pedro Reinhard.
We had better luck with the third name on our list, William Stavropoulos,
himself the former CEO of Dow and current Chairman of the Board.
We disturbed his restful enjoyment of a television sporting event
as he reclined in a luxurious leather armchair. He appeared perplexed
as he cautiously peered through the blinds next to his door, until
he read the poster we'd brought. Then he became more agitated, nervous
in his gestures. After a few seconds he held his hands up, palms
outward, indicating his refusal to speak with us. At the control
panel he turned off the lights to the living room and enabled the
security system. He pressed the emergency button, calling his private
security service, and moved to the kitchen where he also dimmed
the lights before telephoning the Midland Police Department.
clear of Dow pets" we were told
We hadn't driven far before the men in blue pulled us over with
flashing lights. Over the course of the next hour, they asked each
driver for their license and registration, and also collected the
identification of the other passengers. They verified our phone
numbers, addresses, and occupations. And they photographed each
of us with a digital camera, as well as our license plates. We were
informed that we were never again to set foot on Dow property, approach
any Dow building or facility, visit any of the Dow Board members,
Dow executives, or Dow employees in any capacity. We were told to
stay clear of Dow pets, avoid inhaling air once breathed by Dow's
management, and to refrain from reading public documents produced
by Dow, silently or aloud. They specifically instructed us to give
our children different names than those given to the children of
Dow executives. If we should break these rules, we were told, we
would permanently forfeit our ability to send mail using the US
Overall we were astonished by the guilt and fear our friendly visit
seemed to inspire. It’s clear that Dow’s Board members
do not enjoy being held accountable
for their actions, and it’s also clear why.
We remain committed to reminding them of their responsibilities
until justice is finally done.
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Dow Shareholder Meeting
Today, May 11, 2006, we pissed all over Dow on their special, special
day: the Dow Shareholder’s Meeting. About 20 protestors from
Michigan State University and the University of Michigan made the
journey to Midland, representing chapters of Amnesty International,
the Association for India’s Development, Physicians for Human
Rights, and Students for Bhopal. We were met there with a cold,
driving rain: lashing us, drenching our skin, and making our signs
bleed. Despite the nasty weather we put up a strong presence, screaming
out our chants with a single voice:
What do we want? JUSTICE!! When do we want it? NOW!!
Mommy always said! …CLEAN UP YOUR MESS!!!
DOW SHALT NOT KILL!! DOW SHALT NOT KILL!!
What do we want? CLEAN WATER!! When do we want it? NOW!!
Justice for Bhopal! JUSTICE FOR ALL!!!
Our chants reverberated against the building and across
the broad parking lot, where well-dressed Dow Shareholders –
mostly former or current Dow employees – cast furtive glances
at us as they slinked into the meeting. However some of them were
bold enough to approach the grassy knoll (where we encamped) and
pass along the line of signs, reading them carefully before entering
the meeting. The media was there too, and both Neil Sardana (a former
Michigan State student and Corporate Action Network coordinator
for Amnesty in Michigan) and I spoke with a reporter from the Midland
Daily News and a television crew from WJRT Channel 12 (ABC affiliate).
Their questions (at least of me) were strangely synchronic: “You’ve
been coming here for several years,” they said. “Do
you really feel like you’re making any progress? Why do you
continue to come?” “It’s very simple,” I
answered: “because people continue to die.” And I courteously
went on to explain that tens of thousands are still wallowing in
toxic filth – still today – and drinking poisoned water
because Dow refuses to accept their legal and moral responsibilities.
Inside the meeting, out of the rain and away from our chants, Neil
Sardana formally presented the Bhopal resolution before the CEO
Andrew Liveris and the assembled body of Dow Board members. The
resolution, which calls on Dow to write a report for the benefit
of their shareholders, explaining their initiatives to address the
concerns of Bhopal survivors (given the reputational damage the
ongoing campaign presents to the company, and shareholder value)
was sponsored this year by New York City Fire Department (NYCFD)
Pension Fund, the New York State Common Retirement Fund (NYSCRF)
and Amnesty International USA along with Boston Common Asset Management
and Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of Detroit Charitable Trust.
Shareholder proponents hold over 4.5 million shares worth over $190
This was the second year the resolution was voted on by shareholders,
and it garnered 6.3% of the vote. That may not sound like much at
first, but it’s worth keeping two things in mind:
1. The Securities and Exchange Commission rules allow for resolutions
to be reintroduced if they attain at least 3% of the vote the first
year; 6% the second, and 10% the third. So we’ve passed the
threshold for re-introduction next year: an important milestone.
2. Six percent is a very respectable showing for resolutions that,
like ours, make mostly moral arguments concerning the responsibilities
of the company. Given that the number of shares you own is the number
of votes you can cast, major institutional (often conservative)
shareholders (such as banks, mutual funds, and the like) have a
huge voice on resolutions such as this. Many institutions also often
cast their vote as the company management recommends (guess what
Dow recommended) and votes that are not cast are automatically counted
in favor of the company. So the process is stacked against us.
While it obviously would have been nicer if the vote tally was
still higher, the vote we received is still an embarrassing slap
in the face of the company. Major institutional shareholders backed
us, and that’s a humiliating rebuke. Our task is to ensure
the humiliation grows next year by pushing the vote tally above
the 10% threshold set by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Both prior to Neil’s introduction of the resolution, and in
direct response to it, Dow CEO Liveris reiterated the same tired
trash they trot out every year: ‘We don’t feel this
is our responsibility, which properly belongs to the Indian Government;’
‘Dow is not liable;’ ‘This is not an issue of
concern for Dow Shareholders;’ ‘Any cleanup is the responsibility
of the Indian Government;’ etc. Listen: we’ve heard
it all before, and sheer repetition cannot turn dirty lies into
But Dow’s very insistence upon these long-overused public
relations lines – their feverish, sweaty, desperate insistence
upon them – is one of the reasons why they find these protests
and visits of ours so nettlesome. During the question and answer
session, Neil offered Dow CEO Liveris a sample of poisoned drinking
water. ‘This is offered to you from the citizens of Bhopal,
who are forced to drink and live with this water everyday,’
he said. Liveris brusquely refused to accept it: ‘I reject
your sample of water,’ Neil quoted him as saying. Clearly,
the gesture had him rankled.
All in all, we did what we came to do. In the face of nasty weather
and soulless people, we told the truth, told it loudly, and told
it to those who wanted to hear it least: Dow’s CEO and Board
of Directors. The fact is, as much as it may confuse the local media
reporters, we won’t give up and we won’t give in. We
will continue to insist, louder and stronger, that Dow do what it
must in Bhopal. Why? It’s very simple: because people continue
to die. Dow may not care, but those of us with souls do.
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Protesting at the
2007 Dow Shareholders Meeting
Dow held its annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, May
10, and once again we were there. Seven of us made the long drive
from the University of Michigan to be there, and we were joined
by several local residents, upset because Dow has turned
the entire region into another Love Canal. No, Bhopal
isn’t the only crime Dow continues to commit, but that
didn’t get in the way of their orgy of self-love.
But that’s why we were there. Holding our signs high we shouted
our slogans so loudly that they were impossible not to hear, even
on the far side of the parking lot and inside the building. And
what did we say?
What do we want? JUSTICE!! When do we want it? NOW!!
Mommy always said! …CLEAN UP YOUR MESS!!!
DOW SHALT NOT KILL!! DOW SHALT NOT KILL!!
What do we want? CLEAN WATER!! When do we want it? NOW!!
Justice for Bhopal! JUSTICE FOR ALL!!!
Clean Up Midland! Clean up Bhopal!
Most of the shuffling Dow shareholders (often former Dow employees
who continue to live in the area) had to pass by us on the way in.
Often they did so with silent disapproval, but a few did take the
time to read our signs, and several passersby gave us thumbs-up
or nods of support. Meanwhile well-dressed men with Dow pins on
their lapels huddled in clumps, whispering furtively and trying
to hide their discomfort.
The media was there as well, and both the Midland Daily News and
ABC affiliate Channel 12 covered the protest. You can read
the MDN article here and watch
the television coverage here.
Inside the Meeting
After shouting ourselves hoarse several of us went inside to attend
the meeting, amused to find the entire hall blanketed with “Human
Element” posters. There were big posters; there were little
posters. Large “Human Element” wall-hangings stared
down at us, proclaiming Dow’s commitment to the same people
it poisons and kills. A full bank of television monitors played
looped “Human Element” commercials and easels sporting
several dozen “Human Element” placards lined the entire
passage into the meeting. Even the outside of the building wasn’t
free from Dow’s hypocrisy.
Inside the meeting, Dow’s CEO Andrew Liveris presided with
a folksy Australian accent. One of the first orders of business
was our own Bhopal Shareholders resolution, sponsored by Amnesty
International, the New York City Pension Funds, and the New York
State Common Retirement Fund (NYSCRF). Neil Sardana formally introduced
the resolution on behalf of Amnesty International, and Liveris responded
with his usual tripe. “Bhopal was a terrible tragedy,”
he roughly said, “but we don’t give a damn.”
Three other shareholder resolutions probed several Dow misdeeds
– its pursuit of GMO agriculture, its delay in remediating
massive dioxin contamination in mid-Michigan, and the possibility
that several of its best-selling products may be causing asthma.
The vote totals? (drumroll, please…):
Now, you may be thinking that 8.25 percent isn’t very impressive.
In fact, it's a good show for resolutions like ours, which rarely
pass outright (that requires 50%). Instead the game is to see how
high we can get. This year more than 50 million shares were voted
in our favor, and that means several major institutional investors
voted for the resolution. That’s a big slap in the face for
Dow’s management and pressure that’s difficult to ignore.
Combined with the rest of our strategies, this result only serves
to further build more pressure against Dow to do what’s right.
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The Protest Against
the UC-DOW Merger
On May 11, 2000, social justice for the Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims
and Corporate Accountability of Union Carbide was the theme
of a protest organized by the Chicago group, Essential Action, in
which AID- Ann Arbor volunteers participated.
On Thursday May 11th, a group of 10 strident protesters from AID
Ann Arbor took a day off work, and were joined by volunteers from
Ann Arbor's Ecology Center and Boston's INFACT group to demonstrate
at the 103rd Annual Shareholder's meeting of Dow Chemicals in Midland
Under the dynamic direction of Corey Conn, the serious message
of opposing Dow's impending merger with Union Carbide was expressed
in a colorful, playful, and thought provoking manner. Holding large
banners, multi-colored signages, and two giant puppets, the group
chanted slogans and passed out postcards that shareholders could
mail to the Union Carbide Corporate office. The group also met with
several media persons who later wrote about the event. You
can read some of the press articles here.
Nishant Jain and Priya Sundaravalli, both AID volunteers (who had
proxies to attend the meeting), gave passionate speeches at the
Shareholder's meeting keeping the voices of Bhopal victims alive.
This event brought the AID - Ann Arbor volunteers closer together
and feel part of Global community.
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Director of Sustainable Development
On February 7, 2003, Steve, Shivani, Ryan, Sayan, and Jason confronted
Dow's Director of Sustainable Development, Scott Noesen, about the
Bhopal tragedy at a luncheon in the Business School's Executive
Residence. They presented him with a cake that read "Dow-Clean
Up Bhopal!" and told him that Dow's behavior in Bhopal was
anything but "sustainable." Mr. Noesen serves as the president
of the Corporate Environmental Management Program (CEMP) Advisory
Board at the University of Michigan; CEMP is a dual-degree program
between the University's Business and Natural Resource Schools that
is heavily funded by Dow contributions. The Justice for Bhopal members
stressed to Mr. Noesen that it was his company's responsibility
to clean up Dow's mess in Bhopal, and that they would continue to
organize and advocate on behalf of the Bhopal victims until justice
had been done. Mr. Noesen promised to pass the message on to Dow
headquarters, but he pointedly refused to accept the cake that students
presented, as doing so might be construed as an admission of liability!
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Protesting Junk Science
When Justice for Bhopal heard that Dow Chemical's epidemiologist
was coming to town on January 30, 2004, they got together with the
Ecology Center and organized a snap protest. The epidemiologist
came to speak about the results of a study, funded by Dow, which
"proved" that Dow workers, though exposed to dioxin on
the job, did NOT have an elevated risk of contracting cancer (in
contrast to the results of every other major study of occupational
exposure). And as if that weren't enough reason to protest, the
professor whose class he came to speak in, Dr. Garabrant, had just
the day before accepted $180,000 in funding from Dow for a study
to compare the blood levels of dioxin for people living in the contaminated
(courtesy of Dow) Tittabawassee River floodplain of Michigan to
a "control group" of other people living in the same counties.
Problem is, Dow has contaminated the *entire region* with dioxin,
and the choice of a control group so compromised goes a long way
towards explaining why Dow was willing to fund such a study. The
findings of the study would then be used by Dow as ammunition in
its fight against the class action lawsuit filed by floodplain residents
and the state, which is forcing Dow towards a cleanup that it doesn't
want to perform.
"Well, we showed up with signs saying 'Academic Integrity
for Sale,' 'Dow Science is Corrupt,' etc., along with several Bhopal
signs. We put the signs up at the entrances to the lecture hall,
and we also took them in and held them up for the entire lecture.
They were on neon poster board, so they were hard to miss. We all
sat on one side of the auditorium, holding up these signs. The Dow
speaker kept looking back to our section, as if to memorize each
one of them.
"Mary Beth asked a series of probing questions about the proposed
study, esp. about how the 'control group' in Midland is also contaminated.
Basically, the guy kept saying that dioxin does NOT cause cancer,
and how Dow studies have given evidence to that effect. However
I don't think anyone can believe, even for a second, that Dow would
fully fund a study that has a good chance for proving that they've
been poisoning people, so it seems they're pretty confident that
the results of this study will work in their favor. Hmmm..."
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Screwing With Recruiting
On November 14th, 2002, Justice for Bhopal learned that Dow would
be coming to campus on the 15th to recruit students for its Pharmaceutical
division. We moved quickly, and Ryan, Sayan, Rob and Jackie were
ready for them the next day. We ambushed the Dow reps with questions
about Bhopal and sent them packing in a huff, but not before they
received a copy of the technical guidelines for a Bhopal clean up
that Greenpeace had prepared.
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Stealing Press Coverage
Justice for Bhopal traveled to Dow's international corporate HQ
in Midland, Michigan, on November 22nd, 2002. Dow, as an equal opportunity
polluter, has taken the time to contaminate the entire Tittabawassee
River floodplain with dioxin. But instead of cleaning up the contamination,
Dow attempted to strike a sweetheart deal with the state DEQ to
RAISE the acceptable levels of dioxin, so the site won't be classified
as a Superfund clean up site.
Local residents, angry about the contamination and frustrated with
Dow’s backroom deals, had scheduled a community meeting to
discuss the plan. Dow responded by scheduling a press conference
that morning, before the hearing, in the hopes of dominating the
news cycle. They trotted their scientists before the cameras to
tell the good people of Midland how safe dioxin is and how raising
the acceptable dioxin levels was really the best move for everyone.
However they didn't count on Jackie and Rob coming into town with
haz mat suits and HUGE Michael Parker wanted posters to assist the
angry residents. The leading story on the noon news: Dow’s
science skeptics? Nope - it’s Jackie, Rob and local activists
with their 5 feet Michael Parker WANTED posters rallying in the
Read our coverage in the Midland
Daily News and the story on WNEM
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The First Annual
"Run for Your Life!!"
for photos, here for the advisory!)
On April 6, 2003, approximately 25 University students, faculty,
and community members ran for their lives in a "A 3K Race for
Human Rights, Corporate Decency, and the 500,000 Victims of the
Bhopal Disaster." The race was designed to dramatize and recreate
the Bhopal disaster here at the University of Michigan in the hopes
of highlighting Dow's ongoing liability for the tragedy and its
association with the University of Michigan. Participants were asked
to sign away their rights by a "Dow representative" sporting
a Pinocchio nose. The Dow rep spoke grandly about Dow's discussions
with survivors and attempts to develop a philanthropic strategy
for Bhopal, but the runners weren't buying it. Instead they signed
allegations of liability, charging the company with ignoring its
clear legal responsibilities in Bhopal.
The race began with a dry ice "gas leak" outside of the
Dow Chemistry Laboratories on Central Campus. Participants began
to cough and soon they fled, chased by a resolute Grim Reaper sporting
a nasty scythe. Before the runners reached the vicinity of the University
Hospitals, more than 40%
had been culled by the Reaper. Death certificates and stickers reading
"I DIED: Ask Me How" were distributed to those who were
caught; the winners were granted lead and mercury medallions, symbolizing
the continuing contamination that even the survivors of the Bhopal
disaster continue to face. Water bottles reading "CLEAN WATER
- What Bhopal lacks" were distributed to all the participants,
who had braved the weather and turned out to run in spite of near-freezing
temperatures. The race received coverage in the local section of
Monday's Ann Arbor News.
Justice for Bhopal would like to thank the Ann Arbor Brewing Company,
the People's Food Co-op, the Wooden Spoon Bookstore, Running Fit
and the Tortoise and the Hare for their kindness, their generosity,
and their support.
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for the press release, here
for the resolution!)
On March 17th, 2003, a resolution calling for the University to
"disassociate" from Dow was passed by the Michigan Student
Assembly. The resolution was sponsored by Justice for Bhopal and
supported by more than 20 student organizations, 400 petition signers,
and several faculty members. Citing Dow's refusal to clean up contamination
in Bhopal, India, and its reluctance to properly clean up its dioxin
contamination in Midland, the resolution calls on the University
to send a public letter to Dow, asking it to clean up the contamination,
and to refuse all donations from the company until it begins to
do so. This resolution is the first university resolution calling
on Dow to clean up Bhopal, but it is unlikely to be the last.
article in the Michigan Daily, and the Daily's
editorial in favor of the resolution.
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the University Administration
On April 7th, 2003, Steve, Shivani, Ryan and Dan all met with the
University administration to discuss MSA's Bhopal resolution and
the action that the University should undertake in response. We
met with Ed Willis, the University's Dean of Students, and Dr. Gary
Krenz, Special Counsel to the President. Although no actions were
decided upon, the discussions were fruitful, and we intend to continue
our dialogue with the University administration.
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Quarantine of the
for the press release!)
On April 11th, 2003, Dave, Ryan, Shiny, and Nidhip moved to "quarantine"
the Dow Laboratory, a building largely funded through Dow's donations.
Dressed in white biohazard suits and white face masks, Justice for
Bhopal members advised students that entry into the building might
be unsafe, given Dow's history of environmental contamination. Other
members, dressed as waiters, offered "Bhopal water" to
passers-by. Told that the water contained a hazardous mix of chemicals,
carcinogens, and heavy metals, students were required to sign a
liability waiver in order
to sample it. Not surprisingly, most declined!
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at the Dow Laboratory
On December 2nd, 2004, EnAct and Students for Bhopal co-sponsored
a day of action on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy. This included
a public reading testimonials of the survivors of the tragedy outside
the two main entrances to the Dow Chemistry Building, the walls
of which were also plastered with posters giving facts about Bhopal.
Read more in the Michigan
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