Wednesday, June 23, 2010

BP Now Using Police to Strongarm Activists With Cameras

We've covered BP's unsavory attempts at blocking journalists from filming the Gulf oil disaster before. And while we were surprised to learn that the oil giant hired mercenaries to strongarm private citizens, it now appears that BP also has the local police in its pocket, as evidenced by the experiences of Drew Wheelan, the conservation coordinator for the American Birding Association.

Louisiana police warned Wheelan to stop filming himself at the Deepwater Horizon response center. While the officer admitted that Wheelan wasn't breaking any laws, he warned "BP doesn't want any filming. So all I can really do is strongly suggest that you not film anything right now. If that makes any sense."

The intimidation tactics didn't stop there. After Wheelan started driving away, he was pulled over by the same cop, who was accompanied by a BP security officer named Kenneth Thomas. Wheelan was interrogated for 20 minutes about his motives for filming before being let go--but not before Thomas confiscated Wheelan's Audubon volunteer badge for no apparent reason.
It's disturbing to see the police aid BP with its bullying, but not all that shocking. Louisiana does still rely heavily on offshore drilling for jobs--so much so that a federal judge in the state struck down Obama's moratorium on deepwater drilling today, presumably because of the potential for lost wages and jobs. The Obama administration plans to appeal the ruling, but the Gulf region's reliance on drilling jobs obviously continues to cloud its judgment.

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