Protesters Create "Oil Slick" on Major Roads, or Did They?

Image credit: Climate Camp

From beautiful images of a climate camp protest in Wales, to skepticism over protesters' targeting of offset companies—the ever growing Climate Camp movement never fails to get a reaction—both here on TreeHugger and elsewhere. But it seems the latest Climate Camp protests have garnered attention that they probably wish they hadn't—namely claims that protesters created an oil slick on roads and put lives at risk. Activists, on the other hand, are claiming this is nothing but a smear tactic to discredit them. (We are not sure if the pun is intended or not.)The camp, which took place in Scotland, featured protests against the Royal Bank of Scotland for its oil-related investment activities. But the day of action was overshadowed by stories of vandalism and recklessness. Writing over at The Guardian, Richard Bernard–a member of the Climate Camp press team—recounts how police released a press release about "a substance similar to diesel or vegetable oil" being spilled on two major roads in Edinburgh. Bernard claims that this story was then widely circulated by the mainstream press, with no apparent evidence being presented that Climate Camp protesters were responsible or, he says, that the slick even happened:

"Worryingly, almost every media organisation, from the Scotsman to the Financial Times, re-reported this despite no evidence of any kind having been presented to link this oil spill - if it happened - to the camp: no pictures of the spill; no traffic reports showing disruption; no bystanders or drivers complaining; no banner; no word from any climate activist on any website saying they did it. It appears to have been a phantom oil spill.

This "action" defined the narrative of camp's day of action. Yet, compare this with every other direct action that the Climate Camp has been involved in. In each case, the target was a corporation or government, not the general public; no one's safety was ever purposefully put at risk; and each action was cheerfully claimed by the camp, usually in a press release."

Meanwhile, the Lothian and Borders Police are certainly implying that the 'oil slick' incident is directly connected to Climate Camp—including it in their roundup of Climate Camp related activity and arrests:

"Around 9.30am it was discovered that two arterial routes to Edinburgh were badly affected after a substance similar to diesel or vegetable oil was poured onto the carriageways. City of Edinburgh Council had to use 7.5 tonnes of grit to clean the A720 at Bankhead and the west bound A8. Lothian Buses removed its vehicles from the roads for a spell while the cleaning operation was carried out."

Whether this slick was caused by Climate Camp protesters directly, rogue elements with a similar agenda, or a deliberate attempt to discredit the movement—as the protesters claim—remains to be seen. But it is certainly not a story that will do Climate Camp any favors. And it's yet another reminder of why environmentalists need strategy more than ever before.

More on Climate Camp
Offset Companies Targeted by Climate Camp
George Monbiot Going to Climate Camp
Fun and Games at Camp for Climate Action

Tags: Activism | United Kingdom