BP Now Using Police to Strongarm Activists With Cameras

Deepwater Horizon oil spill

 We've covered BP's unsavory attempts at blocking journalists from filming the Gulf oil disaster before. And while we were surprised to learn that the oil giant hired mercenaries to strongarm private citizens, it now appears that BP also has the local police in its pocket, as evidenced by the experiences of Drew Wheelan, the conservation coordinator for the American Birding Association.

Mother Jones directs us to the video below, which shows the Louisiana police warning Wheelan to stop filming himself at the Deepwater Horizon response center. While the officer admitted that Wheelan wasn't breaking any laws, he warned "BP doesn't want any filming. So all I can really do is strongly suggest that you not film anything right now. If that makes any sense."

The intimidation tactics didn't stop there. After Wheelan started driving away, he was pulled over by the same cop, who was accompanied by a BP security officer named Kenneth Thomas. Wheelan was interrogated for 20 minutes about his motives for filming before being let go—but not before Thomas confiscated Wheelan's Audubon volunteer badge for no apparent reason.

It's disturbing to see the police aid BP with its bullying, but not all that shocking. Louisiana does still rely heavily on offshore drilling for jobs—so much so that a federal judge in the state struck down Obama's moratorium on deepwater drilling today, presumably because of the potential for lost wages and jobs. The Obama administration plans to appeal the ruling, but the Gulf region's reliance on drilling jobs obviously continues to cloud its judgment.

Read more about the Gulf Oil Spill

Got information on the spill you want to share? Email us at oil@fastcompany.com. It'll go directly to the lead reporter and editor on these stories, and they'll assume all initial communication to be strictly confidential.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

Add New Comment


  • SmartestOne

    Aaaarrggggg! At first I wondered about that as well. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, I know all about the corruption in Louisiana politics. However, in this case I sincerely believe that THE FEDS ARE TELLING THE LOUISIANA COPS WHAT TO DO, NOT BP. Think about it: Feds have states over a barrel with funding/grants, equipment (militarization of police forces), etc. Orders from the feds WOULD be followed. Don't want to piss off the hand that feeds....

  • Aaaarrggggg!

    I don't understand why the local cops would be on the side of BP or how local jurisdictions would tolerate this type of suppression -- kick-backs and collusion perhaps? Coming from Louisiana and knowing Louisiana politics, I wouldn't doubt it since local and state government corruption is Louisiana is practically a sport.

  • DailyReusables

    This is so frustrating. Isn't freedom of the press a fairly sacred idea in this country? Isn't a public beach still public even if it is covered in BP's oil? If it's such a safety hazard, why aren't the clean up crews wearing better protective clothing and masks?