4 rainforest activists arrested at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank

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UPDATE: On October 11, 2012, Disney announced a comprehensive paper policy that maximizes its use of environmentally superior papers like recycled and eliminates controversial sources like those connected to Indonesian rainforest destruction. For more info, visit www.ran.org/disney.

Several protestors - two of whom were dressed as Mickey and Minnie Mouse - were arrested Wednesday in a short-lived demonstration after they chained themselves to a gate at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.

The four activists, who are members of the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network, were protesting Disney's children's books, which they said use paper that contains fibers from endangered Indonesian rainforests and threatens species such as the orangutan and Sumatran tiger.

"Disney is printing children's books with paper that is driving the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests," said Robin Averbeck of RAN, in a statement. "It is past time for Disney to catch up with its peers and adopt a policy that guarantees tiger extinction and deforestation will no longer be found in kids' books or in any products the company sells. Of all companies, Disney should not be harming the earth's real magic kingdoms."

A Disney spokeswoman called the protest "nothing more than a publicity stunt," saying that the company had contacted RAN as recently as last week to discuss its commitment to sustainable paper sources.

"As part of our focus on rainforest preservation and responsible paper sourcing ... Disney seeks to have all paper sourced by our non-licensed businesses be sustainable," said spokeswoman Michelle Bergman. "We only work with manufacturers who have committed to us that they will only use sustainable paper."

Burbank police arrested Jennifer Binstock, 20, of San Francisco; Christopher Toomey, 52, of Redondo Beach; Blake Hodges, 26, of Irvine; and Alexia Dickason-Soto, 27, of Los Angeles.

They were booked on trespassing charges, according to Burbank police Sgt. Sean Kelley. Bail was set at $1,000 each.

Binstock and Toomey, who were costumed as Disney's most iconic couple, locked themselves to the front gates at the complex's main entrance shortly after 7 a.m., Kelley said.

Others climbed onto an arch over the entrance on Alameda Street and unfurled a 35-foot banner that read, "Disney: Destroying Indonesia's Rainforests."

Bolt cutters were used to cut the protestors from the fence about an hour after the protest started, and a fire engine ladder had to be used to take down the banner.

The four were arrested without incident, Kelley said.

Activists have been negotiating with Disney for more than a year in an effort to get the company to stop using the paper, according to RAN.

Disney, which publishes 50 million books and 30 million magazines annually, aims to have all paper used in its North American operations contain recycled content or be from certified forests by the end of the 2011 fiscal year, according to its corporate report.

Contra Costa Times
C.J. Lin
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

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