I went down to London to join protesters from Friends of the Earth, Platform, Cornerstone and Kurdish Human Rights Watch – as they paraded a 200m-long “pipeline”, made by different groups up and down the country, from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank, Europe branch), to BP's HQ.
11.00am I get off the train in Euston, and to make a change decide to take a bus to Clifton street, in the centre of London’s “Square Mile”, where the action is to take place. Am pleasantly surprised to find that one-day bus tickets in London are less expensive than they are in Birmingham, and that thanks to the Congestion Charge, the buses run according to the timetable.
11.30am I find the noisy crowd of FoE protesters already assembled and hastily making adjustments to their cloth “pipelines” in preparation for the march. I get allocated the back end of the brightly painted section made by Kurdish children from a local community centre, which I carry with pride.
Midday Following slight panic at the disappearance of a group of Kurdish dancers and rousing speeches from Nick Rau, FoE's Climate and Energy Campaigner, and Nick Hildyard of Platform, we set off – dancing down the street in the sunshine accompanied by the Rhythms of Resistance samba band and a belly dancer, not to mention half of the Metropolitan Police Force – to deliver our home-made pipeline to the EBRD and BP.
12.30pm We arrive noisily at the HQ of the EBRD, to the great amusement and entertainment of the workers in London’s financial district, enjoying a sunny lunchbreak. More speeches to passers by follow, and with cameras snapping from every direction, the EBRD accepts a stretch of pipeline bearing the words “No Public Money for New Oil”. After a performance from the Kurdish dancers who have managed to find us after all, we move off towards BP offices, at Finsbury Circus.
1.15pm Fifty people, a samba band, a belly dancer and a troupe of Kurdish dancers as well as 200m of pipeline arrive outside the heavily guarded Britannia House, home of “Beyond Petroleum”. The weather has brought everyone out of the surrounding offices so the square is full of people to watch our meeting with the BP rep who is waiting on the steps. Following a quick chat with campaigners, the man from BP refuses to accept our painted piece of pipeline – a bit of a tactical error. Huge cheers follow the cry through the megaphone: “BP doesn’t want our pipeline – well guess what, we don’t want theirs either!”
2.00pm I make a dash for my return train, having said a quick farewell to the London campaigners and my new friend Surinder who has been carrying the other end of my bit of pipeline, and make it in plenty of time thanks to the lack of traffic in central London. A flying visit but well worth it. As Nick Hildyard pointed out, at the moment the only place that the pipeline exists is within the computers and minds of London’s financial district. I hope our action has gone some way to ensure that’s the only place it ever exists.
End Note A parallel action was taking place in Tbilisi, Georgia at the same time as our demo – I wonder if they got to dance around in the sunshine with the police taking no more action than to give a good telling off to a cyclist who rode the wrong way down a one way street.