Demonstrations by environmental activists disrupted the general meeting of shareholders of TotalEnergies this Friday, May 26, in Paris. The various actions gave way to scuffles with the police.
[Mis à jour le 26 mai 2023 à 13h01] The general meeting of TotalEnergies was almost prevented. While the shareholders of the oil giant met this Friday, May 26 at the Salle Pleyel, in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, hundreds of environmental activists gathered at dawn to block access to the meeting. Despite the peaceful and other more radical actions of the activists, the meeting was able to take place, not without difficulty.
Environmental activists from various collectives including Alternatiba, Greenpeance, Friends of the Earth and Angry Scientists began to disperse at midday after chanting slogans incriminating the actions and policies of the oil company all morning. Their mobilization aimed to denounce the indecency shown, in their eyes, by the company and its shareholders by reaping billions in profits (36 billion in 2022 according to the balance sheet of TotalEnergies) and by supporting fossil energy projects in full climate crisis by hiding behind a “greenwashing” strategy. It is also the responsibility of the group and its environmental impact that are severely pointed out.
If the demonstrations caused a stir, they called for very different responses from Total and the government. The first called for calm on Twitter and regretted the violence observed: “If all opinions must be able to be expressed with respect, we call for calm and condemn all forms of violence, verbal or physical.” At the end of the morning, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in turn reacted and considered that the environmental demonstrators were “in their role of alert”. Ella also invited the company to “accelerate its ecological transition” without putting it at odds.
What do the environmental protesters accuse TotalEnergies of?
The environmental impact, the carbon footprint and the financial profits made by TotalEnergies thanks to projects in particular oil are denounced by activists and environmental groups. And while the 10% increase in the remuneration of the CEO of Total, Patrick Pouyanné, or the vote on various projects of the company are on the agenda of the general meeting, Greenpeace accuses the oil company of adopt a “strategy of climate destruction”.
Charges against which the CEO of TotalEnergies defends himself. He presents his major as the one “which has invested the most to build the energy model of tomorrow and which will be based on electricity” and insists on “an acceleration of investment” for decarbonization and renewable energies with “5 thousand euros [prévus pour l’investissement] in 2023”, reports BFMTV. Inaudible arguments which, according to activists, hide other projects such as the longest heated pipeline to be built in Uganda and Tanzania to recover oil.
Hundreds of activists and different actions
The first activists arrived before sunrise in front of the Total tower and near the Salle Pleyel. There were dozens of them crawling, then sitting in single file to block access to the premises. These sittings were followed by demonstrations of several hundred people. The authorities evoke 200 to 400 demonstrators at the height of the mobilizations against 700 environmental activists counted by the organization Greenpeace.
In addition to demonstrations in neighboring streets and passive blockades, activists have carried out other actions against TotalEnergie and some have attacked locals by inserting themselves into the security perimeter to break the windows of the tower.
Police repression denounced
The demonstrations in front of TotalEnergie led to the strengthening of security measures in the building and the closure of all access to the premises. The security forces also intervened to dislodge the activists gathered in front of the Total tower, breaking the human chains formed in front of the premises and using tear gas to scare away gatherings of activists. Mobilized collectives such as Alternatiba, Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth and certain left-wing elected officials have denounced “extreme violence” on the part of the police.
ALERT – The gendarmes drop a tear gas canister in the middle of a group of activists seated, handcuffed and non-violent to evacuate them.
Action to block the AG of Total. pic.twitter.com/gf1dSp83XE
— Clement Lanot (@ClementLanot) May 26, 2023
“The peacekeepers are not a militia that you can make available to ecocide multinationals” launched the rebellious deputy of Val-de-Marne Clémence Guetté to the attention of Emmanuel Macron on Twitter. Others have paralleled the repression of militant actions and the escort provided for the shareholders of TotalEnergie.