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Gulf oil spill: New Orleans protesters rage against BP

Despite pelting rain and occasional blasts of thunder, some 200 people gathered in New Orleans’ French Quarter on Sunday to hear speakers demand the ouster of BP and other oil giants from the gulf region and to plead for volunteerism to save turtles, birds and other wildlife.

Organized by locals in the last week, the rally was publicized through social networking sites, including Twitter and a Facebook group, BP Oil Flood Protest.  Homemade signs waved by the boisterous crowd spoke to the anger: “Brass balls, not tar balls,” “BP oil pigs” and “Kill the well now.” And one sign, "BP sleeps with MMS"  spoke to what President Obama has called a "cozy" relationship between oil companies and federal regulators at the Minerals Management Service.

Many speakers, including the president of the United Commercial Fishermen's Assn. and an environmental studies professor from Loyola University in New Orleans, assailed what they saw as the inadequacy of BP's response to the spill. More people took the stage after showing up and asking to have their say.

“I’m a little upset that the perpetrators of a crime that killed 11 people are still in charge of the crime site,” said musician Dr. John, an impromptu speaker, referring to the crew members who died after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig April 20.

Dr. John, whose formal name is Malcolm John Rebennack Jr., was handed a red bullhorn by rally organizers. At times, speakers’ words were briefly drowned out by the blasts from boats plying the Mississippi River nearby.

Actor Tim Robbins, who has been shooting a movie in New Orleans, was another unexpected arrival. He did not speak to the crowd, but he said on the sidelines that a flight he had taken over the spill area about 10 days ago had convinced him it was far worse than most people imagined. “We got down below 3,000 feet and saw huge, huge globs of oil about to hit  Raccoon Island,” Robbins said of the barrier island that is one of Louisiana’s most important seabird nesting sites.

One speaker was Dean Blanchard, who owns one of the largest shrimping businesses in the gulf. He said he is worried about keeping Dean Blanchard Seafood Inc. alive. He employs more than 1,400 boats and about 6,000 people. Through a thick Creole accent, Blanchard said in an interview that May to July is usually the busiest time of year and that he and his staff had initially bet that shrimping this year would reach an all-time high. Now, he said, "I've cried more in the past couple weeks than in the past 30 years....They're shutting me down."

Patrick Brower, 32, wore a beige shirt that read, "Make wetlands, not oil."  When he heard Sunday that BP's so-called top-kill operation to plug the well had failed, he said he was devastated.  Noting that the hurricane season starts June 1, he said, "We could have oil in the city."

Mary Ann Bohlke, 66, said she was at the protest because the gulf is "our life." Clutching an umbrella, Bohlke teared up while talking about the effect of the spill. "It's the second time that we've been trashed," she said, referring to Hurricane Katrina. "The country's watching us go down."

Doc Mancina, who owns a sushi restaurant near the French Quarter, said he's been forced to purchase more expensive frozen seafood to stay stocked. "It starts to add up," he said, adding that it's costing his restaurant an extra $15,000 a month. "We're already fragile after Katrina," he said, holding a sign reading, "Oil's not well in Louisiana." "It just brings back the feelings of isolation and loneliness."

Librarian Danielle Brutsche, 37, wore a shirt that read, "Our addiction to oil is killing us." In between clapping for speakers, she said she believes the effects of the spill will be much more long-lasting than that of Hurricane Katrina.  "It's like a nightmare you can't wake up from," she said.

This being New Orleans, however, all was not gloomy. Up the street, the crowd crammed into Café du Monde to eat beignets was even bigger than the one at the rally in Jackson Square. And two of the protesters were dressed in costume.

Yellow horns made of construction tape protruded from hard hats worn by William Horswood and Craig Harlson. Dressed in white jumpsuits, they had adorned themselves with red paint and gray shoe polish and headed to the protest with wire "oil-soaked" plastic birds around their necks. "It's New Orleans," said  Horswood, 46. "You have to do a costume."

--Tina Susman and Nicole Santa Cruz, reporting in New Orleans

Photo: From left, John Mancina, Doc Mancina and Amy Bohlke voice their concerns at a rally in New Orleans on Sunday.  Bohlke's sign reads, "We are worth more than BP's bottom line."  Credit:Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles

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For an alternative account of those involved

Perhaps the NYT would care to investigate these issues and how TransOcean etc al are not responsible !

Only 200? Does this look like 200?:

The line outside Cafe du Monde was bigger than that? That must be a joke.

First with the "shrug" headline. Now this. What does the LA Times have against New Orleans?

These oil execs may as well be the Keystone Cops--so sad.....The TV show "Issues" on Headline News channel is saying they will have the some revealing news regarding this pathetic oil spill tonight on the show.

Louisiana's Gulf coast is more precious than oil.

BP must fix the leak. It should be noted that we currently have no substitute for oil as energy source in automobile and many other industries. So, we have to continue to drill offshore. The alternative is to spend American money buying fuel from unfriendly nations. Fuel pollution in the wide oceans by tankers is unabated via leaks, spills and disasters following accidents. It's double hurt - overseas producers get American cash, pollution still happens.

On the question of whether you drill offshore and take the risk of environmental pollution, or import oil from the mideast and elsewhere - both have the same problem. Tankers carrying oil from far away are always polluting the wide open oceans with leaks, spills and disasters following accidents. In addition, billions go to unfriendly foreign producers.

On the question of whether you drill offshore and take the risk of environmental pollution, or import oil from the mideast and elsewhere - both have the same problem. Tankers carrying oil from far away are always polluting the wide open oceans with leaks, spills and disasters following accidents. In addition, billions go to unfriendly foreign producers.

200 people??? there were at least 3 times that amount!

Thanks for totally washing over the importance of our protest by mentioning the tourists (who most likely have NO idea what's at stake) crowding at Cafe du Monde. Super-insensitive of you to do so. If you want to use your power as a journalist to bring light to issues, this kind of writing totally diminishes what we were out there, in the rain, protesting. So please consider the magnitude your writing and weight your words as such. Consider the cultural context for one. We costume very often for all types of reasons from Mardi Gras to expressing our rage. That's how we express ourselves. I know the rest of the country always views costuming as a way to make mockery and merriment, but its one our our cheif forms of expression. However, the light that you cast on it makes it seem like we're just "those partying New Orleanians" who "let the good times roll" without a care. This is how we express ourselves. We can be dead serious with a tutu on and that's just New Orleans. Next time you cover our reaction to a tragedy such as this, try to be a little sensitive and think about what your goals in how you portray us are. Otherwise your just doing what everyone else is- dumbing down our efforts to be heard in our own way. BTW: we saw your photo people elbowing protesters out of the way to get pictures of Tim Robbins. Typical LA. Keep up the "journalism".

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Thanks for reporting on the Protest. The numbers were more at around 650 folks I think though.

The Make Wetlands, Not Oil shirt can be snagged here:

Proceeds from this shirt will go to support the United Commercial Fishermans Association.

Captain George Barisich
United Commercial Fishermens Association
940 Stanford Avenue, Apt 405
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Tel. # 225-769-4059

this isn't directly related to BP but does correlate to the subject matter, take the time to review the information, one can join the petition 2

In 2008, Chevron paid more than $40 billion to the governments of countries around the world – most of it entirely in secret.

Chevron drills for oil in places where millions of families struggle on less than $1 a day. That $40 billion could have supported schools, health care and food programs – so where did it go?

Chevron knows exactly how much it paid to each country. But they won't say. And without any information on these secret payments, poor communities can't demand their fair share – to send their children to school, create jobs and escape poverty and hunger.

Tell Chevron to open the books on its secret payments so that the world can follow the money and help put it toward real development.

In less than a week, Chevron will hold its annual shareholder meeting. This is our moment to demand that Chevron finally come clean. Greater transparency and accountability will stabilize countries and help Chevron in the long run.

Chevron won't even provide a basic accounting of how much money goes to each country – so there's no transparency, no accountability, and no way for poor people to call for their fair share.

That means people whose lands are yielding up billions of dollars in oil revenues still face chronic hunger and poverty. It means some officials remain free to enrich themselves with no public oversight. This makes it hard for citizens and watchdog groups to follow the money and keep officials honest.

Our partner, Oxfam America, has met with Chevron multiple times, but they keep refusing to disclose. So they have filed a shareholder proposal for Chevron's May 26th annual meeting, by which shareholders can exercise their rights and ask Chevron to open the books on its secret payments – and in partnership with Oxfam America we're also making it easy for people like you to put direct pressure on Chevron.

Other oil and mining companies disclose this information, and Chevron should join them – especially since more transparency will actually help Chevron in the long run by stabilizing countries. If the company agrees to change its policies, it could be a watershed moment across the oil, gas, and mining industries.

Tell Chevron to stop the back-room deals that open the door to corruption and keep people in poverty.

Chevron advertises itself as a protector of the planet. So why isn't it agreeing to let the public see what it pays to foreign governments?

With your help, we can pressure Chevron to make a real change in its policies – and help millions of poor people in the process. Please share this alert with your friends and family.

Thank you,

- The team in partnership with Oxfam America

Ms. Santa Cruz interviewed me at the very beginning of the rally. Perhaps she left before everyone got there, but yes the count is far too low. There were at least 800 and likely 1,000. My comments did not appear in this story so here they are:

"At the center of both disasters is engineers and lack of federal oversight. Yet again, due to the carelessness of engineers and lax federal oversight, a large portion of south Louisiana is laid waste."

Sandy Rosenthal, wife, mom, Saints fan and founder of

Y'all really need to learn how to count crowds.
TRY 700-1000!
Do we really need the LA Times UNDERSTATING this BP Oil Spill too?

The time to demonstrate is before drilling begins, to ensure proper environmental protection is in place.

why are you labeling it it Gulf Oil Spill, trying to help BP win its lying and legal issues?
its the BP OIL SPILL, if you dont mind being on americas side.

special thanks to the 20 or so people I saw arriving at the protest in Navigators, Suburbans, Tahoes, and two Escalades. Your posters were nice too. Good job.

I am glad that rage is there but all of us must ask the following questions?

How many of us will actually boycott BP?
How many of us continue to boycott EXXON for the horrific damage they did in Alaska?
How many of us voted for Congresspersons who in a previous Congress voted to limit liability against corporations?
How many of us voted for Congressperson and the Party who receives the most donations (AKA bribes) from oil interests? Are YOU going to continue to vote for those who are "in bed" with the Corporate interests?
How many of us are going to listen closer to what environmentalists have warned about and perhaps begin to put our health and Mother Nature ahead of profits?

Paul Harris
Author, "Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina"

During my visit to New Orleans, I was overwhelmed by the outrage shared by this community. The people here are desperate for help and feel like the country isn't listening. We really need to do something. Here is a video I took at the protest:

I think Spike Lee was at the Jackson Square BP oil leak protest in New Orleans

What is going on in Gulf of Mexico is horrible, I have seen some photos that make you sick of this oil spill. Do not know what are they still doing. I received an email from my friend that if you are affected from the oil spill and would like to sue them here is the place please forward this to your friends and family affected by the oil spill.


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