The Climate Rush held a Gala Dinner and Dance outside the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, London, 1 July 2009 as a protest against the deforestation of tropical forests to grow biofuel
The Climate Rush held a Gala Dinner and Dance outside the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, London last night (1 July 2009) as a protest against the deforestation of tropical forests to grow biofuel crops.
A jazz band played, and suffragettes and orang-utans danced in the street outside the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair as profiteers from global despoliation were having their own party inside.
Tropical forests are being felled, releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide, to grow biofuel crops such as palm oil. Palm oil production is causing particular problems in Indonesia, where indigenous people have seen their traditional lands taken over by companies for palm oil production under unfair laws. The forests were their land and their living, and those moved out are finding it hard to survive, often being left without proper clean water supplies in marginal areas. Many have been violently attacked buy armed security forces and police. The promises made by the palm oil companies to the people have not been kept, and the regulations which offer them some very limited protection have not been enforced.
Replacing natural forests by palm oil plantations causes pollution and problems of flooding, as natural drainage is disrupted. Most of the wildlife is eliminated as its habitats are destroyed, and species including the orang-utan and the Sumatran tiger are under threat. A detailed report for 'Friends of the Earth', 'Losing Ground', looked in particular at the human rights issues and concluded that "The EU target to increase agrofuel use is misguided, risking environmental damage and human rights abuses on an even bigger scale."
The Climate Rush flyer for the event states, "90% of orangutans have disappeared since the Suffragettes first appeared 100 years ago."
The event started with a picnic in the park, the garden of Grosvenor Square opposite the hotel. Then the jazz band began to play and people moved out onto half of the street, rejecting the pen police had created "for your safety." Unlike many other occasions, the police made no attempt to force demonstrators into the pen, and while keeping a close eye on the event (and filming and photographing) they concentrated on protecting the hotel with a small line of officers.
After dancing on the street for around half an hour there was a "rush" across the street to the hotel doorway, with protesters shouting the Suffragette slogan, "Deeds Not Words", but it made little impression on the row of police across its front. Many of the police seemed rather amused throughout the event, although there were one or two who slighty lost their temper in the rush itself, and at one point two people were rather roughly thrown to the ground by a small police charge. Both were helped up by other demonstrators and neither seemed badly injured.
Following this, a number of the demonstrators sat down on the road in front of the doorway for a while. While at other demonstrations sit-downs have generally led to police attempting forcible removal of people from the roadway, at this event the police de-escalated and half of them police withdrew around 100 yards down the road as it was clear that the demonstrators were no longer attempting to enter the hotel.
Eventually people got up and briefly danced a conga, before deciding to go back into the park to continue their picnic, and I felt it was time to go home for my own dinner.