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Security Thwart Shell Protest


By Lucy Henson

Security break up the protest

Security break up the protest

Security guards stopped a demonstration that was intended to raise awareness about oil giant Shell’s history of human rights violations. The protest was planned following revelations about the company’s affiliation with the University of Manchester.

About 15 students, including UMSU Communications Officer Robbie Gillett and Campaigns Officer Dan Lee, tied banners reading: “Shell operating at the University of Manchester” to the Sir Henry Wellcome Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre building on North Campus last Monday.

They also hoisted an effigy of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian environmentalist who was hanged for protesting against Shell’s devastation of the Niger Delta, along with a banner reading “Remember Ken Saro-Wiwa: murdered by Shell 10th November 1995”. Robbie Gillett described the effigy as “respectful” and a “powerful visual reminder of the role of Shell”.

Security guards were called in less than 10 minutes after the banners had been put in place, close to the entrance of the building. When asked by members of the security staff to remove the banners and effigy, the protesters refused.

Two security guards then took down the banners adorned with the Shell logo. The effigy was also removed and taken away.

The demonstration marked the 13th anniversary of the death of Saro-Wiwa. As reported in Student Direct, Shell has recently joined forces with the University of Manchester to develop biofuels.

Andrew McCarthy, a first-year Politics, Philosophy and Economics student at the protest, said that he could understand why the security guards asked them to take down the banners and effigy. “It’s not good for their image, but I’m sure we should be allowed to hang banners. It’s a shame.”

He also said: “I think it’s wrong that a company with such a bad human resources record is involved with our University, somewhere that should be concerned with making society better rather than perpetuating wrongdoing.”

Hazel Kent, a fourth-year Arabic and French student, said: “It’s important for people to be aware that Shell is involved in our University, and it’s important to raise awareness of the human rights abuses committed by Shell over the last 15 years. If people don’t know, they can’t be involved.

“It’s a shame that no one from the Biocentre came and talked to us. I think there’s too much sitting in offices and not enough addressing issues.”

Although the demonstration was broken up, security staff allowed the protesters to distribute leaflets informing Manchester students about Ken Saro-Wiwa’s campaigns and death. A member of the security team said that it had been handled very peacefully.

Members of the group later put their banners and effigy up high on a Princess Street lamppost.

The group also plans to send an open letter to the University of Manchester expressing their opinions on the affiliation with Shell, and asking for a response.


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