A climate protest blockaded the entrance to an annual general meeting (AGM) of oil giant TotalEnergies on 26 May. They were protesting the company’s involvement in the climate crisis. However, French police responded aggressively including with teargas.
‘All we want is to knock down Total’
At dawn, dozens of protesters attempted to access the street in Paris where the venue, the Salle Pleyel, is located. However, police vehicles had already blocked the road. Some did get through, though, and sat on the ground in front of the concert hall.
Some chanted “all we want is to knock down Total” and “one, two and three degrees, we have Total to thank”, a reference to rising global temperatures. Others poured black liquid over their heads, amongst a diversity of other protest tactics:
Marie Cohuet, spokesperson for climate justice group Alternatiba, which is involved in the protests, said:
[TotalEnergies] embodies the worst of what is done in terms of the exploitation of people and the planet.
The Canary previously reported on TotalEnergies’ human rights record. The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre linked the company to at least 42 attacks on human rights defenders since 2015, including 14 in 2022 alone. It has also announced huge profits, including £6.5bn for the first quarter of 2023 alone.
Meanwhile, it is co-leading the development of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). The 1,443km-long pipeline runs from Uganda to Tanzania, and has drawn criticism for its potential displacement of up to 100,000 people along the way. Local communities as well as international climate and social justice groups deeply oppose the plans.
Opposition to EACOP is also one of the main drivers of the anti-TotalEnergies protest.
Police across Europe are responding aggressively to climate protests
Police responded aggressively to the climate protest. After some protesters successfully blocked the entrance to the AGM, police issued three warnings before firing teargas into the crowd. Videos on social media also appeared to show officers using pepper spray and physically assaulting people:
French police officers’ confrontational response to protesters mirrored that of recent events in Germany. A video that spread across social media showed German police officers tackling and roughly handling road blockaders from Letzte Generation (“Last Generation”) to prevent them from stopping traffic on 23 May:
The following day, police across seven states raided the homes of people connected with Letzte Generation. According to BBC News, police claimed they are investigating whether the group is raising funds to commit “further criminal acts”.
Protesters disrupted meetings in the UK
During Shell’s annual shareholders’ meeting in London on 23 May, activists shouted out “Go to hell Shell!”. Protesters gave BP’s shareholders’ meeting similar treatment on 27 April, and also targeted Barclays’ AGM on 3 May for its funding of oil extraction.
These appeared to pass without an aggressive response from the police.
Climate protests continue as governments worldwide continue ignoring the need to move away from fossil fuels. The Canary reported that the recent G7 meeting resolved with ongoing commitments to expanding its funding of liquified natural gas (LNG). At the same time, COP28 – this year’s UN climate meeting – is headed up by an oil company executive that claimed fossil fuels are still necessary.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
Featured image via Agence France-Presse/YouTube