Anti-BP protesters gatecrash Hull 2017 lecture to campaign against oil firm and hold minute's vigil
DEFIANT: The anti-BP protesters
By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 21 Jul 2017
Human rights campaigners disrupted a BP-sponsored lecture organised by the City of Culture team to protest against the oil firm's supposed links to rights abusing regimes.
On Wednesday night, just moments before a talk by Nicholas Cullinan, the director of the National Portrait Gallery, protesters took to the floor at Ferens Art Gallery in Hull city centre to stage a spontaneous vigil.
The five men and women, who oppose BP’s year-long sponsorship of Hull City of Culture, all held up small posters in support of people from West Papua - a province in Indonesia.
UNITY: The protesters took to the stage in support of the people of West Papua
One of the speakers talked about the West Papuans' struggles as he suggested BP are supporting a regime which is oppressing them.
The audience were then invited to join them in holding a minute's silence.
Sam Donaldson, one of those who took part in the vigil, said: "By sponsoring Hull City of Culture, BP is attempting to boost its brand and draw a veil over its destructive impacts on communities and the environment.
"Around the world, BP rakes in profits by working with regimes that routinely abuse human rights.
"To drill for gas in West Papua, BP partners with the Indonesian government which continues to occupy West Papua and repress Indigenous Papuans.
"Tonight, we wanted to shine a spotlight on this injustice and express our support for their struggle.’
VIGIL: The protestors encouraged the audience to join them in a minute's silence
According to the group, the people of West Papua face widespread violence and intimidation on a daily basis and a petition has been created calling on the UN Secretary general to appoint a 'special representative' to investigate the human rights situation in the province.
Pelle Hjek, who spoke at the end of the vigil, said: "Hull is one of the UK’s cities most at risk from rising sea levels in coming decades.
"By accepting BP’s sponsorship, Hull City of Culture has helped to promote one of the very fossil fuel companies that is recklessly fuelling global warming, with impacts that will undoubtedly damage our city in the future."
Last year, BP faced controversy in the city when a leaked safety report revealed that damages of up to $45m were caused when a piece of equipment within Hull's chemical plant was not operated correctly.
Fran Hegyi, executive director at Hull 2017, expressed support for BP as a funding partner but also welcomed peaceful protests.
He said: "BP are a major partner of Hull 2017, one of more than 70 funding partners that are enabling us to deliver a 365 day cultural programme that is reaching people across the city and has received positive attention from across the UK and around the world.
"Everyone has the right to protest peacefully and the lecture went ahead as planned."