Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Louisiana Police Pull Over Activist at Behest of BP

Last week, Drew Wheelan, the conservation coordinator for the American Birding Association, was filming himself across the street from the BP building/Deepwater Horizon response command in Houma, Louisiana. As he explained to me, he was standing in a field that did not belong to the oil company when a police officer approached him and asked him for ID and "strongly suggest[ed]" that he get lost since "BP doesn't want people filming":

Here's the key exchange:
Wheelan: "Am I violating any laws or anything like that?"
Officer: "Um...not particularly. BP doesn't want people filming."
Wheelan: "Well, I'm not on their property so BP doesn't have anything to say about what I do right now."
Officer: "Let me explain: BP doesn't want any filming. So all I can really do is strongly suggest that you not film anything right now. If that makes any sense."
Not really! Shortly thereafter, Wheelan got in his car and drove away but was soon was pulled over.
It was the same cop, but this time he had company: Kenneth Thomas, whose badge, Wheelan told me, read "Chief BP Security." The cop stood by as Thomas interrogated Wheelan for 20 minutes, asking him who he worked with, who he answered to, what he was doing, why he was down here in Louisiana. He phoned Wheelan's information in to someone. Wheelan says Thomas confiscated his Audubon volunteer badge (he'd recently attended an official Audubon/BP bird-helper volunteer training) and then wouldn't give it back, which sounds like something only a bully in a bad movie would do. Eventually, Thomas let Wheelan go.
"Then two unmarked security cars followed me," Wheelan told me. "Maybe I'm paranoid, but I was specifically trying to figure out if they were following me, and every time I pulled over, they pulled over." This went on for 20 miles. Which does little to mitigate my own developing paranoia about reporting from what can feel like a corporate-police state.
Louisiana Police working for BP

So now our police are working for BP?  This is outrageous.  The police strongly suggests that this guy not film while on private property, and yet it wasn't BP's property.  What the hell is going on?  How in the hell is this being allowed to happen.  Why does BP have any kind of authority with the police?

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  1. Say NO to Palin in PoliticsJune 22, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    I'd be paranoid if I was in his shoes too. This is very, very strange. He should file a complaint and get this on record. He should also be traveling with someone. He shouldn't have to answer anyone's questions unless he was under arrest and even then with only a lawyer present, sheesh.

    He handled speaking with the cop better than I would have, lol. I would have been far more irritated at my rights being violated which most likely would have gotten me in trouble, lol. And I would have told the BP guy to go screw himself, gah.

  2. All along we've been hearing that BP is not controlling anything, and that media has access except (per Thad Allen) in the case of national security (I don't get what could be compromised there when wanting to take pictures of the oil in the water, on shore, in the marshes, or in the case of health/safety concerns. There is no excuse for this behavior, and you have to wonder who is authorizing the police to act at the behest of BP?