Emergency Committee to Stop the Gulf Oil Disaster Disrupts BP-Government Disinformation Meeting

 By Larry Everest

Tonight, in New Orleans, the BP-government informational meeting didn't go as planned, thanks to the actions of members of the newly formed Emergency Committee to Stop the Gulf Oil Disaster and others in attendance who have been speaking out about the oil catastrophe.
Since the beginning of this nightmare, BP, and various government agencies -- including the Coast Guard, the EPA, NOAA, and the Dept. of Energy -- have been holding "open houses," or "informational meetings" across the state of Louisiana and beyond, to try and reassure people that they're doing all they can to stop this catastrophe, that they're on top of the situation, that they really want to hear peoples' concerns and give them all the information and help they need.  In reality, those attending hear a stream of double-talk, obfuscation, vague promises, and outright lies.  These are very deliberate exercises in disinformation and pacification, with BP and the government working together in an attempt to paralyze people, keep the lid on the situation, and maintain their legitimacy.  
Initially, people in the audience were able to come up to a mike and make statement or ask questions of the assembled officials.  
But after scorching condemnations and persistent and revealing grillings at these meetings (like one I attended in Venice, Louisiana several weeks ago), BP and the government have abandoned this format.  Now after a few hollow preliminary statements, people are shuffled off individually to various informational tables -- with no time to interrogate these officials in front of everyone and the media.
So tonight, a group of us from the Emergency Committee challenged this whole setup -- some outside handing out our Mission Statement and Demands (and a few of us selling Revolution as well), and some inside.  When New Orleans'  Mayor Mitch Landrieu introduced the meeting, Elizabeth Cook shouted out "what about fish kills?!" Landrieu claimed we'd get to that.  A few moments later I asked/demanded that these officials answer questions in front of everyone not send everyone -- 150 or so people in the room and the assembled dozen or so TV cameras.  Landrieu was forced to say OK to this -- how would it have looked to prevent people from questioning BP and government officials, after promising to be completely open and tell people anything they wanted to know?
And we persisted and made sure it happened.  So when the Coast Guard and BP officials were done with their spiels, Landrieu said he'd briefly open it up, then called on me and I jumped in, saying we'd formed an Emergency Committee to Stop the Gulf Oil Disaster because BP and the government had proven unwilling and unable to deal with this disaster and that we had demands.  I quickly read through the demands (see below), gave copies to all the officials, and demanded they speak to them.  It was then quite a scene to see the Coast Guard officials begin reading the demands in front of TV camera -- Stop Oil Drilling -- "I can't comment on that," then responding at length to the demand calling for the immediate end to the use of dispersants.
This kicked off a flurry of questions and challenges -- all in front of TV cameras -- on the use of dispersants and other issues which went far beyond the 10 minutes.  Later, other Committee members directly challenged and took on various officials in front of others in the audience, including the government's lie that no large fish have been killed by the oil gusher.  After first denying any fish had been killed, the Coast Guard backed up and said it was only some smaller fish.  
The whole course of the meeting was changed, and a much more palpable spirit of resistance unleashed.  By the time the meeting was through, over 40 people had signed up with the Committee.  
This is just a beginning glimpse of the kind of mass action, protest, and demand for the truth so urgently needed.  This is the Emergency Committee's mission -- and tonight wouldn't have been the same without it. 
1) Stop oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico .  Full compensation, retraining, and new employment for all affected.
2) Immediately end use of dispersants. Fund all necessary scientific and medical research on human and environmental impact of dispersants and make public all findings.  Immediately begin remediation of damage caused by dispersants.

3) The government and entire oil industry must allocate all necessary resources to stop and clean up the blowout gusher, prevent oil from hitting shore, protect wildlife, treat injured wildlife, and repair all devastation. Full support, including by compensation and a major public works program, must be given to peoples’ efforts on all these fronts and to save the Gulf.

4) No punishment to those taking initiative independent of BP and the government to protect the environment and public health; no gag orders on people hired, contracted, or who volunteer.  Those responsible for this crime against the environment and the people should be prosecuted.

5) Full mobilization of scientists and engineers. Complete transparency and disclosure of all information and documentation, including scientific and technical data, concerning every aspect of this disaster. 
6) Full compensation for all losing livelihood and income from the disaster.

7) Immediately provide all necessary medical services to those suffering direct and indirect health effects from the oil disaster.  Immediately protect the health of and provide all necessary equipment for everyone involved in clean up operations. Full disclosure of medical and scientific studies concerning the impacts of the oil disaster.