Photos and video by Brian Merchant
Last night, over a hundred fishermen and other members of the coastal communities near Houma, Louisiana gathered for a meeting with representatives from the Coast Guard, the EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and BP. The meeting was intended to provide information to residents, whose livelihoods have been threatened or wiped out by the oil spill -- but it also gave the angered locals an opportunity to confront BP. Watch: The meeting was hosted by the Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing group (BISCO), and was designed to be a community forum. Many people spoke -- fishermen, family members of fishermen, and small business owners. It definitely grew tense, especially on two topics: the chemical dispersants used by BP to mitigate the spread of the oil slick, and the reimbursements BP promised to those impacted economically, but has yet to adequately deliver.
This is a pretty good example of how the fishermen demanded BP step up and provide answers:
But it wasn't always cordial -- this woman, a mother of two fishermen, took BP to task for everything from being irresponsible in drilling in the first place, to not providing adequate protection for fishermen working around the oil, to having no long term plan to deal with such an event. She was right on, and was clearly backed by the crowd:
After the BP rep's unsatisfactory response, the woman then notes how people aren't receiving the payments they've been promised. Watch the BP rep deflect the question entirely:
And this man pointed out that certain studies have found that chemical dispersants used to fight the oil spill can cause cancer, and wanted to know what their long term effects on the environment would be:
About halfway through the meeting, frustrated fishermen could be seen exiting. Nonetheless, BISCO should be applauded for attempting to provide their community with a forum to voice their concerns, see how the government is responding to the spill, and get some answers from BP -- even if they weren't necessarily honest ones.
There's definitely a very justified sense of frustration, and some nervous anger, still swirling around fishermen and the coastal community. BP has promised to repay anyone who has lost their livelihood from their mess -- but two months down the line, who's to say they'll follow through?
I'm traveling around the Gulf of Mexico reporting on the continuing oil crisis. Stay tuned for the latest developments and breaking reports from the scene.
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