Ohio grand jury indicts 9 Greenpeace activists

Ohio grand jury indicts 9 Greenpeace activists for Procter & Gamble banner stunt

Ohio grand jury indicts 9 Greenpeace activists

CINCINNATI (AP) -- A southwest Ohio prosecutor announced felony indictments Wednesday of nine Greenpeace activists linked to an eye-catching protest at the Procter & Gamble Co. headquarters in downtown Cincinnati.

The nine activists were arrested March 4 after protesting the consumer products company's use of palm oil from a supplier Greenpeace says is tied to tropical forest destruction in Indonesia. The activists slipped past company security and unfurled giant banners from P&G's two towers as a helicopter filmed them.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said a county grand jury indicted each on felony counts of burglary and vandalism. Deters said the charges carry a possible sentence of more than nine years in prison and $20,000 in fines with convictions.

Greenpeace issued a statement defending the protest.

"Peaceful protest has long been a valuable way to bring important issues to the public attention, and to companies like P&G that have the ability to influence the fate of the forests and the last remaining Sumatran tigers," said Joao Talocchi, Greenpeace palm oil campaigner.

Authorities were stunned by the security breach at P&G, known for restricting access to protect its personnel and its innovations in such best-selling brands as Pamper diapers and Tide detergent. Cincinnati's police chief has called for a security meeting with downtown businesses.

P&G called it a well-planned protest, saying one protester claimed to have an appointment and let the others in. Deters said Wednesday the protesters used fake identification and entered P&G dressed in business attire with rolling suitcases.

"The prosecutor's office determined the charges based on the facts, and those facts will continue to decide the outcome," P&G spokesman Paul Fox said Wednesday in a statement.

Palm oil is commonly used in shampoo, cosmetics and other products. P&G says it is committed to achieving a 100 percent sustainable supply of palm oil by 2015.

The nine activists spent a night in jail last week and were released the next day on $50,000 bond each, set by a Hamilton County judge who rebuked them for what he called a dangerous and ill-advised stunt. A Greenpeace representative had said the activists were willing to deal with the consequences of their protest and that the environmental organization backs them completely.

Palm oil is commonly used in shampoo, cosmetics and other products. P&G says it is committed to achieving a 100 percent sustainable supply of palm oil by 2015.

Among the items activists used in the protest was a tiger suit one wore to represent endangered Sumatran tigers.

Deters said property damage, including broken window locks, totaled some $17,000. He also said 24 police officers and two companies of firefighters were diverted to the protest, and that they were unable to open windows to get to protesters "hanging from some type of rope or wires between the two P&G buildings" for some 90 minutes.

"While some people may be sympathetic to their message, this is definitely a crime," Deters said in a statement. "This was a very sophisticated plan that put P&G, fire and police personnel at risk while causing damage to a major corporation. They had numerous other ways to get their message across without committing a crime."

He said no charges were being planned involving the helicopter used to photo the protest. All nine people indicted live in other states.


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