No one could accuse Ian Bruer of poor preparations as he burst across the forecourt of an Esso petrol station at 5.35am yesterday in an anti-war protest.
The window cleaner, 36, had a stepladder, screwdrivers and a working knowledge of electronics for his role in the disruption of six Esso stations in south Manchester.
Across Britain, other Greenpeace protesters were preparing for similar exercises. They were angry at what the organisation alleges is the support for war in Iraq and "environmental crimes" by Esso and its Texan parent company, Exxon Mobil Corporation. Up to 1,000 staff at the firm's Surrey headquarters were sent home after a Greenpeace blockade.
Mr Bruer's task was to knock out the fireman's switch, which provides power to the pumps. Other demonstrators chained themselves to pumps. Greenpeace said 120 Esso stations in Britain were disrupted by 21 teams in the early-morning raids.
Mr Bruer's team took three minutes to find the switch in their first garage, at Bredbury. They left in a car driven by Sharon, 35, and hit five more stations. They evaded capture at their fifth target, in Bramhall, after seeing police cars surrounding it.
"We have a simple way of making our point and a simple message," said Sharon. "Some people don't appreciate the drive towards war."
"I don't tend to go in for all this," said Maggie Johnson, a library assistant, 48, who, dressed as a tiger, locked herself to a pump. "But I've come because I'm anti-war and there doesn't seem to have been an adequate way of making the point."
Anita Goldsmith, a Greenpeace campaigner, said the looming war in the Gulf was a "barely disguised" attempt by President George Bush to get his hands on Iraqi oil.
About 50 protesters were arrested around the country, including some who climbed on to the roof at Esso's HQ.
A spokesman for Esso said Exxon Mobil had "not had any discussion with the Bush administration regarding mili-tary action".
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