Yesterday morning, staff at Greenpeace Germany received an important-looking letter from Shell - well, Shell’s Legal Services department. Over the next 24 hours or so, identical letters arrived at other Greenpeace offices, including Mexico, UK, France, Hungary, Nordic, Japan, Mediterranean, Poland, Greece, Czech Republic, Belgium, Canada and even Greenpeace’s Science Unit. I think it’s fair to say Shell had something they wanted to say to us.
The oil giant’s message was: I know where you live and I’ve seen where you sleep. I swear to everything holy that your mothers will cry when they see what I’ve done to you.
I’m paraphrasing, obviously. But it is true to say that Shell clearly wants to make certain that every Greenpeace office in the world a) knows about the injunction Shell has taken out against Greenpeace USA and b) understands that if any office was to even think of going to Alaska and peacefully protesting near one of their drill ships, Shell will break out the big legal guns and point them straight at us.
As it happens, they didn’t need to go to the effort. All Greenpeace offices are well aware of the injunction Shell has taken out against Greenpeace US - mostly because, in our long history of being not very popular with corporate polluters, Shell’s injunction stands out as one of the most draconian and sweeping legal measures ever taken against a Greenpeace office. It’s up there with Cairn’s social media gagging order against Greenpeace UK and Greenpeace International (which is still in force today).
The injunction stops Greenpeace USA from holding peaceful protests (legal or otherwise) anywhere near Shell’s drill ships in the US. Why? Well, according to Shell’s letter (pdf), Shell doesn’t want any protests to threaten “Shell’s right, interest and investments in exploring for oil and gas on United States leases”.
Interestingly, Shell also claims to be concerned about “the threat posed by such activities [protests]... to the surrounding environment” - but apparently not about the threat posed by drilling for oil with outdated equipment in one of the most ecologically sensitive environments on the planet.
While Shell’s lawyers battle on to prevent free speech and the right to protest, Shell’s drill ships are steadily approaching the Arctic. If Shell has its way, its drills will grind into action in just a couple of months’ time, beginning the transformation of Alaska’s pristine icescapes and waters into an industrial wasteland.
The good news though, is that Shell is clearly feeling the heat. The injunction - along with Shell’s extraordinary pre-emptive legal actions against a range of organisations - suggests to us that the massive groundswell of public opinion against them and a series of peaceful protests against their ship have taken the company by surprise and are making it nervous.
While Shell plans to irreversibly damage the Arctic, we plan to keep standing up to Shell. Greenpeace USA is appealing the injunction and continues to mobilize the public opposed to Shell’s plans. And we too will keep fighting to stop Shell and Save the Arctic. Please stand with us - and with the 450,000 people who are campaigning to stop Shell and Save The Arctic.