Shell’s Plot to Take Away Your First Amendment Rights

Picture: Catherine Hammond (CC)

Picture: Catherine Hammond (CC)

Greenpeace’s executive director Phil Radford writes at Huffington Post:

Corporations want to work in secret. It’s what they do, and why they have lawyers. In secret, they can spill, clearcut, burn, and otherwise destroy the environment and local communities while telling the world they’re doing just the opposite. Shell Oil’s legal team is currently working overtime to keep the company’s Arctic work secret from advocacy groups like Greenpeace. It’s a battle that will have implications well beyond the Far North. If Shell ultimately wins the legal battle with us this month, corporate secrecy will have the blessing of a federal court — and America’s First Amendment rights will take a devastating hit.

The thought is chilling.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California is currently weighing whether Shell has the right to preemptively stop Greenpeace from protesting Shell’s drilling in the Alaskan Arctic. If the court ultimately rules in Shell’s favor, nothing would stop other corporations from taking the same preemptive action against anyone they saw as likely protesters — from neighborhood groups to Amnesty International. The worst of these suits would eventually be overturned on appeal, but with the precedent set by Shell, anyone who wanted to silence protest outside a convention or a disaster site could do so for the duration of whatever activity they wanted to keep secret.

Advocacy groups like Greenpeace adamantly oppose this type of corporate secrecy. We work to bring attention to corporate destruction so people understand the stakes in fights from the Arctic to the Amazon. Our ability to go wherever the planet and its people are in danger is why Greenpeace strikes fear into corporations like Shell, so much so that they will go to extraordinary lengths to stop us from exposing the work it wants to keep secret.

In February 2012, as Shell prepared to begin what became its disastrous attempt to drill in the Arctic, the company filed an injunction against Greenpeace USA. This came the day after activists associated with Greenpeace New Zealand boarded the Noble Discoverer, one of Shell’s two Arctic class drill rigs. On March 1, 2012, despite the fact that no Greenpeace USA activists were involved in the New Zealand action, a federal judge granted Shell a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting Greenpeace USA from taking action against “Shell’s interests,” including any otherwise lawful activity that might happen within a court-mandated “buffer zone.”

Greenpeace appealed this action, but through the summer 2012 drilling window in which Shell proceeded to “screw up” (according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considered the case. So by simply mobilizing its lawyers, Shell was able to use the process to keep lawful protest away from the actions it wanted kept secret. Instead of seeing this as an abuse of the system, the three-judge panel rejected our appeal the day after Shell officially abandoned its plans to drill for 2013.

Read more here.

  • alizardx

    How do corporations pay off judges after they retire from the court system?

    The suppression of dissent strategy is much like welding down safety valves and spray-painting over gauges on steam boilers. Yes, one will get more power out of them for a while before reality catches up. The problem is that we get caught in the explosion along with the idiots who thought this was a good idea.

  • BuzzCoastin

    thanks for the article
    I didn’t have time to read it all
    I had to run down to the Shell station
    & fill-up on gas & super-sized drinks

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