Green activists occupy offices

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The Independent Online
THE LONDON headquarters of Shell, the oil multinational, and of London Underground were both occupied yesterday by separate groups of environmental activists.

Thirteen demonstrators took over offices belonging to Shell in a protest against the company's operations in Nigeria, while nearly 20 green activists occupied London Underground's headquarters in protest at the Government's plans to privatise parts of the Tube network.

The Shell protesters said they were acting in sympathy with the Ijaw people in the Niger delta, who are in dispute with the company, other big oil firms and the provincial government over the way the oil business is run locally.

Demonstrations by Ijaw groups have led to fatal clashes with the Nigerian security forces in the past week. Police said six Ijaws have died but activists said at least 26 people have been killed since 30 December, and yesterday one report from Nigeria said the death toll had reached 240.

The Ijaws are demanding that the oil companies apply better environmental standards to their operations, and want them to leave the area until this is agreed.

Yesterday's demonstrators, who described themselves as "three groups of environmental and human rights protesters" without giving further details, took over management offices of Shell UK in Shell-Mex House in the Strand at 9am. They claimed to be occupying the offices of Chris Fay, the retiring chairman and chief executive, and Malcolm Brinded, his successor. They were removed and arrested by police four hours later on suspicion of causing criminal damage.

Activists from the organisation Reclaim The Streets (RTS) entered London Underground's headquarters above St James's Park Tube station yesterday morning to protest at the public-private partnership intended for the Underground, which they say will lead to price increases and fewer people using public transport.

"Despite the fact that the privatisation of British Rail is now recognised as a disaster New Labour is proceeding with plans to sell off parts of the Tube network," said an RTS spokesman.

"It is estimated that the privatisation process will cost around pounds 100m. This could be much better spent on improving the service."

London Underground confirmed yesterday that 15 to 20 protesters had entered their headquarters and were later led away by police officers.