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video of shell saro-wiwa action

rikki | 11.11.2005 15:56 | Rossport Solidarity | Ecology | Social Struggles | London

in november 1995, nigerian writer and activist, ken saro-wiwa, and 8 of his colleagues were executed by the military regime for campaigning against the devastation of the niger delta by oil multi-national shell. yesterday, demonstrators dropped nine nooses infront of the shell uk headquarters on the south bank to highlight the anniversary and highlight the current struggle on the north west of ireland, where shell is set to transform a remote conservation area into an environmental disaster zone with public health and safety implications.

for further info:
on shell generally
on the struggle in ireland
on shell art sponsorship
on protest restrictions

to contact the uk solidarity campaign

there is a rossport irish solidarity event at rampart this saturday the 12th
activists from county mayo will talk about their struggle against shell
the evening kicks off with films, discussion and talk at 7pm followed by a benefit gig til late with veggie cafe, bar and music.

check for details

bring a friend



Hide the following 6 comments

ShellRubens' Massacre of the Innocets

11.11.2005 22:32

Massacre of the Innocets - Oil
Massacre of the Innocets - Oil

Massacre of the Innocets - sOil
Massacre of the Innocets - sOil

Yes Shell are actully sponsering a painting called ' 'Massacre of the Innocets' pretty disgusting.

Have a go.. make your own version.. Ther are still plenty of topics.. floods...war....storms...repression...

- If you want to see them bigger I accidentally posted them HUGE here:


nice one, rikki

11.11.2005 22:40

nice video, great action, keep at it!

pissed off penguin

Exclusion Zone?

12.11.2005 06:22

Yes, excellent video Rikki. I can't understand why the cops arrest some people but not others for demonstrating within the Exclusion Zone. What criteria do they use? It seems to be completely arbitrary.


Short and long report from the day

12.11.2005 13:17

Big Oil and High Art meet London cultures of resistance on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the execution of the Ken Saro-Wiwa and compatriots

On November 10th 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogoni colleagues were hung by the Nigerian state for campaigning against the devastation of the Niger Delta by oil companies, especially Shell and Chevron.

On the eve of the tenth anniversary of this execution, activists from London Rising Tide, Rhythms of Resistance, Rossport Solidarity Camp and London Earth First! came together to take action against Shell for its activities in Nigeria, in Ireland and worldwide.

Nine nooses were hung from lampposts directly in front of Shell’s UK headquarters on London’s South Bank. A pipeline decorated with slogans celebrating resistance to the curse of oil in the Niger Delta and in County Mayo in the past and right now were also on site, as were banners and a small but noisy samba band.

Also part of the picture was the situation in County Mayo, north west Ireland, which is the proposed site of a major new Shell gas development, currently being opposed energetically both locally and internationally:

The action was also in direct opposition to the new law designed to clamp down on protest in central London:

Shell is also currently laundering its tarnished reputation by sponsoring the Rubens exhibition at the National Gallery, so the group made an unwelcome (to the gallery at least) visit there later in the day;

There were no arrests, but it was a close-run thing.

The following day saw the culmination of the art/activism project Remember Saro-Wiwa:, as well as actions and commemorations all around the world:

Photos & more information on this action:
Film of the two actions:

UK Shell in County Mayo Solidarity Campaign:
London Rising Tide: 07708 794665;
See also:
Rossport Solidarity Camp 2006:

And for more on Shell and the rest of them:

If you want to contact the National Gallery:
Charles Saumarez Smith (Director), Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
Tel: 020 7747 2885;

Or maybe get in touch with these pillars. (Keep it polite if not necessarily respectful, I reckon.)
Board of Trustees, as at Nov 05:

Mr Peter Scott (Chairman): QC, Chairman of the Takeover Panel and former Chairman of the General Council of the Bar.

Victoria Barnsley: CEO of HarperCollins UK and founder of the Fourth Estate publishing company.

Mr Simon Burke: Chartered accountant and Executive Chairman of Superquinn, the leading Irish supermarket chain.

Professor David Ekserdijan: Professor of Art History at the University of Leicester, former Editor of Apollo Magazine (1997-2004), writer and journalist.

Mr James Fenton: Poet, critic and journalist who has written extensively on art. He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford 1994-1999.

Mr Mark Getty: Co-founder and Chairman of Getty Communications plc.

Professor Julia Higgins: Professor of Polymer Science at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine. The National Gallery's Scientist Trustee.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: Permanent Under Secretary of State Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Ambassador to the USA (1995-7).

Mr John Lessore: Artist Trustee. His work is represented in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, the RA and the Tate.

Mr Donald A. Moore: Chairman of Morgan Stanley Group (Europe).

Lady Normanby: Author and literary critic.

Mr Jon Snow: Television journalist, presenter of Channel Four News; ex-Trustee of the BP-sponsored Tate; supporter of Remember Saro-Wiwa.

Mr Ranjit Sondhi: BBC Governor, formerly on the Commission for Racial Equality and the DfEE's Task Force on Disability Rights.

Professor Mervyn King: Governor of the Bank of England and Chairman of the Monetary Policy Committee. Was Professor of Economics at the LSE from 1984, and has been Visiting Professor at both Harvard and MIT.


A longer first-hand report from a London Rising Tider:

The nine nooses were silhouetted stark and clear against the blue November London sky, and reflected with photographic certainty in the window above the Shell Centre entrance. By the time we arrived with our leaflets, drums, megaphone and banners, our two friends had already scaled two lampposts and hung a rope to which the nooses were tied.

In a fit of forgetfulness I had forgotten to bring the briefing that listed the names of the dead, which I had planned to read out as a way in part to bring the lives and deaths of men who weren’t Ken Saro-Wiwa back to life. At least I can reproduce them here:
Baribor Bera, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbokoo, Barinem Kiobel, John Kpuinen, Paul Levura, Felix Nuate, Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Security guards whose turf is Jubilee Gardens huffed, puffed and strong-armed a few of us onto the pavement while Metropolitan Petroleum employees looked on without much interest. In fact they seemed happy to let it all drift along quietly until someone managed to get the megaphone working and allow me to try to explain what was going on in language that might make some kind of sense to the primary school kids who were settling down to their packed lunches after a trip aboard the Eye. After a bit of a preamble and a gentle laying out of the issues, the policeman in charge, a laconic, long-suffering man with a salt and pepper beard, appeared, and we proceeded to have a discussion about the nature of the new ‘protesters, terrorists – they’re all the same to me’ legislation. Or rather, he told me we were inside the half-mile round Parliament exclusion zone, and that we didn’t have permission. I asked around to see if anyone had remembered to ask for permission, naturally got a ‘no’ from the assembled and so began the irresistible task of winding up this poor, world-weary servant of the state.

He said we had to stop, or rather particularly that the megaphone ranting had to stop, so I had a go at singing my concerns Sinatra-style into the microphone, crossing the road towards the Shell building at the same time, but soon stopping when faced with the tight-lipped square-jawed response of the security guards out front. On returning I announced, again amplified, that ‘This is not a demonstration, it is a public information service,’ misquoting Joe Strummer’s ‘This is a public service announcement’ from ‘Know Your Rights’. This really set off the same policeman, whose tired-but-understanding paternal tone was replaced now by a more clipped ‘final warning’ about arrest being not far down the pipeline if I continued.

‘You aren’t interested in talking politics, are you?’ I asked him.
‘No,’ he said with knackered certainty, bringing our conversation to a close, for the moment at least.
And later:
‘Why are you standing up for ridiculous laws that are repressive?’
‘Somebody pays me to stand up for ridiculous laws,’ was the disarmingly frank reply.
‘That’s where the problems start.’
‘Well it does.’

Then there was a bit of a lull as the climbers returned to ground level none the worse for wear, and I wandered over to the place where the kids had been eating their lunch until they’d been spirited away by their over-zealous teacher. But their coach driver was still there, who had in fact moved his vehicle earlier when I’d asked him to, as it was standing directly between us and Shell. Another teacher who was waiting with him said ‘You know, I really admire you lot…I didn’t know any of this until today’. Then the three of us had a chat about the new legislation and enjoyed a bonding moment at the expense of Tony Blair and all the pallbearers of the New Labour project. A great moment, one that I would have forgotten if I hadn’t paused to get the story down after the fact.

Having earlier said that while this side of the building was in the exclusion zone, the other side – also a main entrance for Shell employees – was not, now our police guardian insisted that we had to go many yards away from either side to be outside the zone. So, having had a disorganised elongated discussion amongst ourselves, we headed to the other entrance, with the banners and the newly made pipeline reading ‘Nigeria 1995 – Ireland 2005’ (which was great except that it might have implied that the bad situation in the Niger Delta is a thing of the past when in fact it’s probably worse than ever).

Some of us took up position on the walkway that passes over York Road as well as directly under the Shell Centre (providing a perfect amplification point for the three person samba band). I stood on the walkway holding up one half of my old ‘Oil Makes War’ banner, made back in 2003 for the day of action on oil and war, the letters partly glued, partly stapled (!) to the white material. Maybe some of the Shell employees that I tried to look through as they peered out of the window were looking laughingly at the fact that the word ‘oil’ on the banner also doubled as a BP logo, but I knew that it made good sense since BP and Shell are just two of the biggest heads of a many-headed monster.

I thought I’d risk arrest with a bit of megaphone mayhem, but the damn thing was on the blink again, so I resorted to shouting, wondering to a friend if it was possible to shout in a friendly way or not. Our old police guardian then reappeared, agreeing now that we were indeed outside the exclusion zone, forcing me to conclude aloud that he and his lot had a very sophisticated set of goalposts on wheels, to which he smiled conspiratorially and moved along.

Soon after that, what with the wind and our appetites picking up quite a bit, we took refuge in a lovely Italian caff across the road, one that is likely to be the regular haunt of Shell employees, which was part of the reason why I had a chat with them about what we were up to. I reckon the psychological effect of being quizzed about Ken Saro-Wiwa or Rossport by the man knocking up your tuna bap of a lunchtime can’t be underestimated.

Propelled by caffeine, we then headed less than a mile north to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, which is currently hosting ‘Rubens – a Master in the Making’, sponsored by Shell. Inside the Sainsbury Wing, the ‘Stop Shell Hell in NW Ireland Now’ banner was unfurled, leaflets distributed and the message communicated loud and clear by a certain big-voiced bloke.

One security guard asked me what the gore-tex jacket I was wearing was made of, to which I replied that yes, I was complicit and a hypocrite, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t try to take a stand. (Yes, I was ready for that one.) His boss said, ‘Don’t bother talking to him, he can’t listen to reason.’ ‘Just because I’ve got a loud voice doesn’t mean I can’t discuss this stuff,’ I said. But it was too late, as the enquirer had reverted to the training manual policy of non-engagement with the rabid extremist invaders.

The security mostly met one of these descriptions: over-adrenalised, aggressive, snide or blank-faced. Behind the information counter, employees tried to pretend to be nonchalant. Minutes earlier they had taken my request for Shell propaganda without batting an eyelid, not having anything of that sort but pointing me to the foreword of the exhibition programme, which I browsed while waiting for our defiant incision of the illusion of civilisation to come together. The foreword, by Shell UK Chairman James Smith, is a despicable thing, full of tastefully chosen sentiments and a sense that the Rubens and Shell brands are a perfect match.

Visitors were a little bemused that the tranquillity of their Wednesday afternoon had been so brutally punctured. Earlier I’d ranted about the way galleries and other London institutions conspire to airbrush the dark truth about where our oil comes from, and how they work tirelessly – consciously and sub-consciously – to remove the imperial bloodstains from the corridors of our most revered buildings and streets. ‘You may have come in to the National Gallery today to seek refuge from the trials and tribulations of London life’, I’d said. ‘You might have hoped to soothe away the stresses with some high art…well, that’s not possible anymore, because Shell’s logo means even in this apparent refuge from the world’s stresses there is theft, murder and climate chaos.’

‘The galleries argue that the government won’t support them as they used to, which is true, but can there be a greater irony in the fact that the same government that can’t afford to pay for public art is pouring billions into a war that is prising open new markets for the oil companies that are in turn sponsoring the needy galleries?’ Must be time for a deeper more systemic change than just a change of corporate logo on the poster…

‘Most of the people in this gallery are probably against the invasion of Iraq. You might have marched against it. But if that invasion is at least partly about maintaining the flow of oil to western markets, and if it was quietly supported by oil companies like Shell and BP, then maybe we need to stay out of galleries like these, or at least let the know what we think.’

On and on it went. Although the security seemed to have called the police, after ten minutes or so of tussling with the guards and talking loud about the Ogoni 9, Rossport Solidarity and Art Not Oil, there was still no sign of them, so we calmly folded the banner and moved unassisted to the door. It was disappointing maybe in a dramatic sense not to have left with the firm-gripped ‘assistance’ of security or police, so we tried to make it a dignified exit, apart from my detour to the shop, where I claimed the right to rant because there were sure to be Shell logos on the premises. ‘No there aren’t,’ claimed a confident shop assistant, to which I – wind knocked from the sails a little - came back with a quick all-purpose statement about Shell and oil, before turning a heading towards the exit.

It had hardly been a comforting message, but one visitor came up just as I was reaching the door, shook my hand and said ‘thank you’ so powerfully that I felt a real tremor down my spine, and said, temporarily overcome, ‘Thank you…that really makes it worthwhile.’

And then I was escaping into the now almost completely darkness-fallen London afternoon, where the massive ‘Warning – Shell Hell in operation’ banner was being held by some of the people who’d stayed outside or left earlier. It was looking resplendent beneath the Shell logo’d Rubens banners.

Apparently the police on site had argued that this was part of the new exclusion zone, which an eagle-eyed and well-genned up member of our party was able to dismiss summarily with a ‘no it’s not’, which was pretty much the end of that law’s playtime for the day at least. Later we went through the issues with one of the police, about how London’s wealth and splendour was built on a bloody lie, about climate chaos was kicking in, about whether maintaining public safety was really their role if a greater threat to public safety is being allowed to roam freely (ie. climate change), and…’Have you seen the Matrix? You know that stuff about the red and the blue pill?” etc. etc. Actually he seemed quite receptive, but whether or not it trickles into his on-duty persona rather than his off-duty think-what-I-like persona, it remains to be seen.

Passers-by were generally supportive all day, from the Nigerian man who shook my hand enthusiastically beneath the nooses, before asking me to select 6 numbers for his midweek lottery gambit, to the elderly man outside the National Gallery who described himself as a fatalist, to which I replied, jokingly, ‘Damn, now I know you’re going to try to rob me of my hope and positive energy!’ before turning to his friend to say ‘You know, these fatalists are the most determined evangelists I know – they won’t rest until they’ve convinced you that all is lost.’ But actually we had a long friendly chat about this and that, and parted with the last of the day’s handshakes, each one powerful enough to neutralise 50 cold-eyed, thin-lipped passers-by.


The following day, I spoke – with fourteen others - at the announcement on the South Bank of the winners of the Remember Saro-Wiwa ‘Living Memorial’. With two minutes or less to pack everything into, I talked about these actions, getting a nice round of applause after mentioning the first part, leading me embarrassedly to say that I wasn’t one of the climbers, to deflect it a bit. I then urged those assembled to have a look at the issue and stay away from the National Gallery, or at least let it know what they think. This call surfaced later on Radio 4’s ‘Front Row’ arts programme which, as well as interviewing Ken Wiwa and the winners of the commission, asked the National Gallery (NG) about why it was being sponsored by Shell. So, the connection was made between the situation in the Niger Delta and high art, but any potential for listener disquiet was dampened by one of the two winning artists saying that no, she wouldn’t recommend boycotting the NG, but she would recommend boycotting Shell, and the other saying that he didn’t need to boycott the NG because it was too boring to bother going to anyway. Then was the disquiet completely drenched by the piece reporting and ending with an NG statement saying they were very grateful to Shell for the sponsorship, as the exhibition wouldn’t have been able to go ahead without its support? I’m unsure – on balance I think it’s better to get the seed of doubt sown in the public domain, even if that seed is subsequently doused with super-toxic weedkiller. But only just…

Then I mamaged to squeeze in a little of the Oilwatch statement on the tenth anniversary of the executions. (Oilwatch is a southern-based network of groups resisting the oil industry and calling for its dismantlement.)

…‘Those deaths in the Niger Delta are repeated year after year, ever more frequently, caused by cruel invasions, by crude violence and by atrocious hurricanes. Behind this are petroleum and companies like Shell, Repsol, Texaco and others, which are turning Earth into a place that resembles hell.

However, after the death of the poet and his companions, resistance germinated in many corners of the world. Simultaneously to this event, 10 years ago, the Oilwatch network was born. A network of the South, that fights against the abuse of the companies in a frontal and direct way, against the contamination, against the displacement of communities, against the division, against the corruption, and against all forms of abuse and systematic violation of the collective rights of the peoples that undergo the presence of the companies on their land.

The past 10 years have been years of impunity of the homicide of Ken Saro Wiwa, but also 10 years of resistance and hope. Everything has changed since then: now there are more movements around the world fighting for their rights, their culture, their territory and their resources.’



15.11.2005 19:44

Thanks for the long report. Terrific !!


Shell non-executive director on board of National Gallery

23.11.2005 11:22


Just wanted to pass on this updated list with info interestingly left off the National Gallery's own website descriptions, ie. that Lord Kerr is on the board of Shell, (sponsor of Rubens exhibition). Looks like we have no chance with Jon Snow if he's sitting alongside Kerr at every meeting!

Anyone feel like trawling the web for addresses for this lot so we can send them a Christmas card from the Niger Delta or County Mayo?

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: Permanent Under Secretary of State Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Ambassador to the USA (1995-7); non-executive deputy chairman, Royal Dutch Shell (natural resources, £50,000). Other FTSE directorships: non-executive director, Rio Tinto (natural resources, £64,900); Scottish American Investment Company (banking and finance, £12,000).

Snowy Jon

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