Opposition

Campaigner arrested at Tour de France “for wearing an anti-Ineos T-shirt”

190704 Andy Gheorghui and Eilidh Robb

Andy Gheorghui and Eildidh Robb after their release from custody on 4 July 2019.

A senior campaigner with a European environmental organisation has described how he was arrested at the Tour de France carrying anti-fracking fliers and masks of the Ineos boss, Jim Ratcliffe.

Andy Gheorghiu, policy advisor of Food and Water Watch Europe, and the organisation’s intern, Eilidh Robb, were held in police custody for four hours.

They were handcuffed, searched and kept in separate cells. Their possessions were taken and they were refused access to a lawyer. They were later released without any charges or police action.

The arrests happened on Thursday afternoon in the Grand Plaza in Brussels, where the Tour de France riders, including Team Ineos, were being presented.

Mr Gheorghiu was wearing T-shirt, designed by campaigner Dame Vivienne Westwood, with the slogan FRACKING CLIMATE CHAOS INEOS.

The pair said they had been intending to distribute the fliers and masks to raise awareness about links between shale gas and the plastics industry and the impact on climate change.

190305 Corre and Boyd versus Ineos

Jim Ratcliffe masks worn by campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, 5 March 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Their action was part of an ongoing campaign about Ineos’s sponsorship of the former Team Sky.

Food and Water Watch had announced its intention to attend the event on Facebook following a similar protest at the Tour de Yorkshire in May 2019.

Before they could distribute the masks and leaflets, Mr Georgiou said:

“We were immediately spotted by the police. They had been monitoring the Facebook page and were expecting us.

“The police said they were arresting us and could keep us for up to 12 hours.

“They said we were not allowed to wear masks or distribute fliers.”

 

Mr Gheorghiu said the police appeared concerned they would disturb the race, only the second time it has begun in Brussels.

“They said ‘Your organisation has done things in the past we do not like’.”

ArrestRightsFoodandWaterEurope

Mr Gheorghiu said Food and Water Watch did not take part in direct actions. But one of the groups that had supported the leaflet distribution had hung a protest banner in front of the Ineos facility in Antwerp.

“The police handcuffed us in public and put us in a van and then they drove with the sirens on at a really fast pace through the city”.

They were taken to an unmarked police building next to a car park, Mr Gheorghiu said. They were again searched and their possessions were taken.

“The police said we could not call a lawyer because it was an administrative, rather than a judicial arrest”, Mr Gheorghiu said.

They were initially refused a phone call. They were later allowed one but refused access to their phones which held the numbers they needed.

They were released at 8.49pm.

Mr Gheorghiu, who said he had never been previously arrested, added:

“It is disturbing that the police are defending the people who are causing the climate crisis and punishing the people who say we need to change.

“My freedom was taken away simply because I wore a t-shirt to protest Ineos’ corporate sponsorship, and to highlight the company’s destructive impact on the climate.”

“I fear from this experience and what we experience on a daily basis. There is a tendency to ignore our arguments. I think we are moving towards the end of debate because the other side is not willing to listen.

Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Europe executive director, Wenonah Hauter, said in a statement today:

“This arrest is not only a violation of our colleagues’ basic civil rights, but it is also a brazen display of state power to protect the reputation of a corporation and its owner, billionaire Jim Ratcliffe. It is he and his company that poses the threat to our climate and Europe’s safety and security, not peaceful protesters.

“This is part of a troubling trend in Europe, U.S. and beyond where peaceful environmental protests are increasingly being criminalized. Just last month, a UN Special Rapporteur on human rights warned that our basic liberties and rights are imperilled by increasing climate chaos. Every time a climate activist is arrested under sham pretences, our rights erode a little further.

“We call for an immediate investigation into this arrest and the human rights violations it represents. We can’t let our institutions flout the rule of law and our democratic rights to protect billionaires and fossil fuel companies—or any company—from public scrutiny and peaceful protest.”

DrillOrDrop is seeking a comment from Brussels police.

  • Mr Gheorghiu said Food and Water Watch had been allowed to protest tomorrow (Sunday 7 July 2019) in Brussels, during stage two of the Tour de France. But he said campaigners would be accompanied by police.

41 replies »

  1. So, it’s OK to wear a T shirt saying ‘Bollocks’ in the EU Parliament, but not to wear a T shirt without offensive language at the Tour de France!! Big Oil is just proving that they are above the Law.

  2. Seems the Belgium and French Police (pepper spray ER mob) are not quite as tolerant of antis causing trouble as our own Police Officers are…..

    They should try their protests in China / Russia / Indonesia / Vietnam next and test their respective Police Forces out.

    • So what are you saying? That because China Russia et al are more vindictive, politically motivated and brutal than French police are then we should accept the unlawful way that the French or British behave because they are less harsh? What a strange and ill thought out comment!

      • Actually Richard my point was that the Belgium and French Police appear to be more vindictive, politically motivated and brutal than UK Police who are tame by comparison. The point about protesting in China / Russia / Indonesia / Vietnam / India (I missed) is that these are the countries with massively expanding middle classes and insatiable appetites for all things the “protesters” don’t like and are trying to stop / reduce / eliminate / replace / return to stone age / turn to vegan / etc etc and which need to be confronted and changed to make any difference to climate change / global warming / fossil fuel consumption / fugitive methane emissions etc etc. I only have direct experience of Vietnam having lived there for 3 years and I was pretty impressed by their policing methods that I witnessed in use.

    • Paul, protesting by wearing logo’d T-shirts, satirical masks and distributing anti-Corporate fliers is hardly causing trouble!

      What kind of Dictatorship do you want, the kind established in a certain European Country in the 1930s?

      That went well didn’t it!

      • Personally I think they were targeted because Dame Vivienne Westwood of Luxembourg supplied the T -Shirts – but who knows?

        Perhaps the Police didn’t want the Tour de France messed up as the article indicates. Fair enough.

    • Paul Tresto. Do you really support this senseless draconian attitude by the authorities to peaceful protest or are you just attempting to score a cheap point? What a sad indictment on the fossil fuel supporters that they would be happy to see our hard fought for human right to peacefully object trampled on and removed by hugely rich and powerful private companies. Be careful what you wish for.

  3. Paul I don’t think this is an exercise on how different police forces operate, but an expression of alarm as to how those that want to inform on climate change crisis are treated overall. This is despite these governments recognising the crisis but not doing enough to prevent the damage, in fact overtly appearing to support the polluters.

    • Perhaps Belgium recognise the employment, taxation and education they enjoy from Antwerp, and the large further investment planned by INEOS?

      I remember asking the owner of a company I worked for as to why he had centred his European head quarters just outside Antwerp. The support to do so and create jobs and taxation was quite staggering and unmatched from anywhere else in the EU.

      Could just be these protestors had simply not bothered to do the research that would have clarified the position.

      Sound familiar?

      • Martin,

        People protesting against climate change/destruction in a peaceful way, like Food and Water Watch should be able to do so anywhere in the Free World!

        Sadly that concept doesn’t seem to be understood in the Corporate world inhabited by the filthy frackers!

        I’m sure in Europe that unwarranted strong arm arrests and detention like these can be countered by legal action against the Constabulary. Netpol will explain that concept if you require clarification.

        • Really Peter?

          You need to get out and about a bit more and see how the police are equipped in other countries. Just because you feel what people should be able to do it doesn’t mean it will be allowed.

          Good job it wasn’t somewhere like Greece!

          Your colonial approach to the rest of the free world is very old fashioned, and somewhat arrogant. Next, you will want to send a gun boat to make certain your will is imposed in another country.

          • Situation normal. A whole raft of obfuscatory comments from people who will condone absolutely any action or behaviour that favours the O&G industry or anything remotely involving the use of fossil fuels, no matter how bizarre or illogical. Can I just point out that the article referred to the false and almost certainly illegal arrest of two people not breaking any law or even demonstrating, but merely for wearing a t shirt and carrying cardboard masks, neither of which contained inflammatory or offensive language. As others have mentioned, this is a very dangerous slippery slope that has distinct parallels in history. One can but wonder who made the arrest decision, at what level, and with what political pressure from above, because no rational copper would make such a crazy decision themselves. It’s akin to the French police justifying the arrest of every farmer owning a tractor within a few miles of the Tour de France route.

            • Situation normal. A whole raft of speculation from someone who has not had any feedback from the police involved.

              Someone raising the French police virtues without obviously having watched their actions against the yellow vests. What French police have to do with Belgian police is a whole different question.

              • ‘A whole raft of speculation?’ So following the obfuscation you are now suggesting that the article is inaccurate and speculative are you? Perhaps we will have to await ‘DrillOrDrop seeking a comment from Brussels police.’ We may have a long wait or do you have access to a different version?
                Actually, it was Paul Tresto that brought up the subject of French police, but there are several people on here that will change the subject as a matter of routine – particularly if it’s something indefensible.

                • No, Mike. I am suggesting the article has only one side of the story.

                  If there is only one side available then that is what is reported. However, it may not make it the full and accurate account. (Simple souls can read a football match report supplied by a home supporter, against one from an independent reporter. Suddenly, it looks like a totally different game,)

                  However, if you want to become excited by such, you will, and others will start to comment about conspiracy theories. Having spent many a happy time working in Belgium I will reserve my judgement based upon my own experience and warnings from locally based colleagues that the way the UK police operate is somewhat different to the way the Belgian police do. Others may think they can travel around the world and believe what is okay in UK they can transport to other countries. Good luck with that.

                  (Last time I was in Belgium and visited the hotel sauna a young lady walked in totally stark naked. Perhaps that was a conspiracy, or maybe just different local practice?)

          • Martin. “Just because you feel what people should be able to do it doesn’t mean it will be allowed.” Allowed? We’re talking about someone wearing a harmless T shirt and mask for goodness sake.

            • Well, Pauline, as a female, try wearing a harmless T shirt in parts of the world and see what happens.

              Perhaps Belgium not that extreme but you seem to be disconnected with their very strong support for cycle sports, and their wish for that to be enjoyed by their people rather than have a few individuals try and highjack and spoil it. What was the purpose of the intended demo? It was to attempt to gate crash a media event for a sporting activity that the Belgians support strongly just so a few could use the event to publicise their own agenda, in a rather childish way.

              The Belgians are well aware of INEOS as Belgium is where INEOS business started and has just been announced to receive £ billions in new investment, including educational spending.

              So, putting those two factors together it is hardly surprising there was the reaction there was. Not all are willing to provide the oxygen of free publicity for antisocial activity.

              But, you will be pleased to know that Sir Jim is busy repairing the Forties Pipeline (again), enabling North Sea production to continue and taxation for the NHS to be gathered, so I would expect you will now be busy producing masks with a halo! No, didn’t think so.

          • I can promise you that actually I am disgusted by the slave trade/colonial/imperialist period of English history! As I am by the hipocracy displayed by the current United States regarding immigration as that country was founded not by immigration but on invasion and genocide like the modern day Australia!
            You really don’t know me at all Martin and that’s how it should be because this site is to discuss the direct and indirect destruction of Humanity and the Environment by the Oil and Gas Industry, both onshore and offshore.

  4. The climate protesters may have over look something when they base their beliefs on one single molecule CO2 which is made up of 0.04% of the air, as the primary one and only cause for their climate emergency or crisis. There are many other factors.
    The recent finding of global greening by 15% suggest the carbon sink on land may outpace any CO2 emission by human.

    https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/carbon-dioxide-fertilization-greening-earth

    It is hard to conceive CO2 level as the master switch for the climate change dial up or down control in its intensity.

  5. Looks like Mr Ratcliffe has found a useful outlet for some of the £4 billion UK tax he saved by moving to Monaco and the savings from not upgrading his chemical plants to acceptable (legal) environmental standards.

    • Have you ever heard of methane, TW?

      The “climate protesters” may indeed overlook some things (but not accepted science) in presenting their argument. Like the total ignorance and fat-headedness of those who deny climate change or from their own vested interests promote dumbcluck running-into-the-buffers Luddite technology involving fossil fuels.

      Most of them are gentle people who care deeply about environment and social justice, and don’t want to descend into personal abuse. I am not one of those, at least as far as personal abuse is concerned. I just want you to know you are a total (removed my moderators).

      • Nobody in the right mind would deny climate change. Climate has changed and will continue to change for years decades and millennium. CO2 (and methane) does contribute to warming but but it is not the master switch that nature use to dial up and down temperature heat wave hurricanes flood and least of all human extinction.

  6. AJT. If you want to protest and stand up for social justice then by all means do it on its own merits which are honourable and admirable. But dont do it under disguise of climate emergency that are based on pseudoscience and political agenda.

  7. TW what on earth are you basing your pseudoscience on? Political soundbites from the Global Warming Policy Foundation? What makes you think there is some “pseudoscientific political agenda” on the current, very real climate and ecological crisis? There is no disguise when it comes to the climate emergency here, this is very real and negatively affects everyone across the political spectrum, across the world, some more than others at the moment. Being arrested for peaceful democratic protest is clearly an anti-democratic political trend by states to deny democracy to citizens who are rightly concerned about their future, and government feet-dragging, where those in power have forgotten who they should be working for! They have broken their contract to protect the citizens of their respective countries – it is our duty to rebel against this corruption.

    Habitat destruction on land and in the oceans, as well as the negative impacts of CO2, methane and other GHG emissions, are causing massive declines in marine and land species globally. These are scientific facts. Extreme climate change will obviously affect humans when marine fish stocks collapse, land crop growing seasons are out of sync and the pollinators that sustain crops are destroyed directly and indirectly by excessive, unsustainable methods of human consumption. This will inevitably lead to mass human migrations and starvation if business as usual is allowed to continue. These are facts not some unicorn, Bojo Brexit, fantasy promises!

    Did you even read the NASA report you posted? The co-author said the temporary “beneficial impacts of carbon dioxide on plants is limited…plants acclimatize, or adjust, to rising CO2 concentration and the fertilization effect diminishes over time.”

  8. Food and Water watch Europe such an amazing organisation. Andy’s Tallks in Ryedale were so well researched informative. It is a disgrace that he was arrested.

  9. Peaceful protest and wearing a campaign t shirt is lawful. I hope they make a great deal about these arrests. It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Met was heavily fined for similar behaviour. If we do not hold this inappropriate standard of policing to account you are not many steps away from state dictatorship and the serious erosion of hard won human rights. This is not about “tame” policing this about policing lawfully.

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