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.
Outside the home of the Dow CEO…
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.
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 Postal Service.
“Stay clear of Dow pets” we were told
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.