Activist Lock Down At Cargill Executive Mansion: The Inside Scoop

posted by Rainforest Action Network
Mr. Page: Rainforest Destruction Stops with You

“In the wake of a damning report linking Cargill to the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests, activists with Rainforest Action Network occupied the executive offices of the nation’s largest private agribusiness company Cargill. Playing a loud recording of chainsaws cutting down rainforests and holding signs reading “This is the sound of your supply chain,” and “Mr. Page: Rainforest Destruction Stops with You,” five activists locked themselves to the staircase of the Lake Office, blocking the entrance to the company’s executive offices for three hours. All five activists were arrested,” read the May 5, 2010 press release.

At 10am yesterday morning ten activists penetrated the heart of one of the world’s largest agribusiness corporations at Cargill’s Wayzata executive mansion, called the “Lake Office,” to demand a meeting with CEO Greg Page. After years of small direct actions at their HQ in Wayzata, constructive dialogue and negotiation with VP of Corporate Affairs Mark Murphy, and just seeing a lot of stalling with no palm oil policy, no global forest policy, and no real concrete steps towards either, we knew it was time to escalate the pressure on Cargill, this time with the objective of calling attention specifically to top decision makers such as the CEO.

How, you may wonder, did 10 people just walk right in to the high security executive mansion where only the top 20 Cargill execs who run the company worldwide work? Well, we had an incredibly well planned out strategy which allowed us to walk right in to the eerily silent mansion.

Our distractor walked in first. She held a bouquet of flowers and posed as a college student arriving to thank Cargill for their financial support. As she conversed with the receptionist, the rest of the crew filed in including photographer, videographer & support people, who locked down in 30 seconds. After a few minutes of documentation, photographers passed off memory cards to our runner who, dressed in jogging gear, safely ran the media out of the property as a dozen police drove right by him without batting an eye lash.

Lock Down and Sound Boxes

We carried two sound boxes playing (very loud) real on-the-ground audio footage of rainforest destruction in Indonesia. They were welded shut and turned on with a remote, which was safely removed from the office with all keys.

Connected to the banister and to each other with powerful U-locks and chains, it took hours for us to be removed. Neither the Minnetonka police department nor the Hennepin County police crew had the equipment to cut us out. The Sherriff’s office arrived around 1pm and cut the U-lock around each of our neck’s.

At least a dozen executives and police swarmed the lobby after about 4 min. of a ghostly emptiness. The sounds of rainforest destruction were so loud, piercing through the walls of the mansion, shutting down business as usual for over 3 hours.

Mark Murphy arrived, frantic, requesting that we unlock so that we could have a “constructive meeting” about getting what we wanted – a meeting with Greg Page – since Mr. Page was not there to come down and meet with us in person. But after years of such unfruitful conversation with Mark Murphy and knowing that we needed to speak to a real decision maker, we stayed true to our plan for the morning – not unlocking unless CEO Greg Page came down and agreed to adopt our proposed palm oil policy.

Mr. Page: This is the Sound of Your Supply Chain

As we occupied the Lake Office, a dozen local activists held a public vigil out front of Cargill’s main Office Center just down the road. Standing in solidarity with the courageous activists locked down inside demanding a socially and environmentally responsible palm oil policy, folks at the public vigil held a large banner reading, “Rainforest Destruction Starts with Cargill.” They also held a massive 6′ orangutan puppet & Cargill chainsaws which were used days earlier in front of 35,000 people in the annual May Day parade.

Public Vigil

A half dozen reporters showed up at the outside vigil for interviews, and some even tried to enter the Lake Office with no success as Cargill execs, fearful for their brand getting tarnished, kept them out.

Our media coverage was excellent, with stories successfully tying in the Cargill report, the lockdown at the Lake Office, the public vigil, as well as the broader scope of our campaign including pressuring Cargill customers such as General Mills to cancel their contract with Cargill until/unless Cargill adopts a palm oil policy.

After six activists spent over four hours in Hennepin County Jail, we were released with bail and three misdemeanors. A small price to pay to protect the sparsely remaining tropical rainforests in Indonesia. Now let’s just hope that Cargill stops stalling and starts taking real action.

Do you want to help Cargill make the right decision? Give them a call!