Greenpeace protesters bring Esso depot to a halt

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The Independent Online

Greenpeace activists campaigning against global warming are protesting on a roof at an Esso fuel distribution centre, police said today.

Between 20 and 30 protesters are on a flat roof above a tanker area at the depot at Purfleet, Essex, holding a 100ft banner which reads 'Stop Esso – Stop Bush', said police.

Some 52 protesters, including five dressed as tigers, shut down the plant at 5.30am today. Police have described the demonstration as "peaceful".

Esso tankers were blocked at the depot entrance and exit by two red customised shipping containers bolted to the road.

Banners with the face of US President George W Bush saying 'Global Warming Villain' are attached to the containers, said police.

The group claims that President Bush's decision to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change is partly due to lobbying by Esso.

An Essex Police spokeswoman said Greenpeace is claiming two protesters are inside each container.

Officers are due to talk to the organisation to check whether this claim is correct.

She said: "No–one can fail to know that the Thurrock area of Essex is at full stretch looking for missing schoolgirl Danielle Jones.

"The location they have chosen and the timing couldn't be worse for Essex Police which has had to pull resources away from the inquiry.

"We hope they will acknowledge that when we talk to them."

The spokeswoman said the protesters were preventing the firm going about its normal business as tankers cannot enter or leave the London Road site and are being diverted away by police.

Staff wanting to get on and off the site by foot can still do so, said the spokeswoman.

Volunteers shut down the fuel supply to the petrol tankers before occupying parts of the site this morning.

The Purfleet plant distributes around 15% of Esso fuel in the UK, according to Greenpeace.

Esso later said suggestions it had anything to do with President Bush's decision to reject the Kyoto Protocol were "ridiculous".

A spokesman added that operations at its Purfleet depot had been shut down this morning and deliveries suspended "to ensure the safety of staff and the protesters".

He said: "We are working with local police in an effort to bring the protest to an end as soon as possible, so that normal deliveries can be resumed.

"Whilst we support the right of all parties to make their views known we deplore this type of action, further we entirely reject the allegations being made about our company today.

"It is ridiculous to suggest that ExxonMobil, Esso's parent company, was responsible for President Bush's decision to reject the Kyoto Protocol."

The spokesman stressed that Esso took the issue of climate change "very seriously" and was taking action to deal with this in its own business.