Getting Naked to Expose BP
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Diane Wilson, a fourth generation shrimper from the Texas Gulf and a founder of CODEPINK, has been watching the BP spill and the botched clean-up with a mixture of dread and anger. After all, it’s her livelihood and that of her community that’s at stake. “I’ve lived all my life in the Gulf Coast, in the oil, chemical, and gas hellhole we call an energy corridor,” said Diane Wilson with her Texas twang. “I’ve been fightin’ these polluters for 21 years. But this BP spill is the nail in the coffin of the people who make their living along the gulf coast. This is our 9/11 in slow motion.”
Watch CodePink's video from the protest:
Diane has been incensed by the cavalier attitude of BP CEO Tony Hayward, who said that the largest oil spill in US history is a tiny speck in the vast ocean. “He had the nerve to say that those miles upon miles of underwater oil plumes that stretch to who knows where and do who knows what to the fisheries, the ecosystem, and Gulf of Mexico for possibly generations, is really going to have a ‘ very, very modest impact.’ Sittin’ there listening to BP’s lies made my blood boil,” Diane fumed. “I realized I better get off my butt and do somethin’ about it.”
This 61-year-old grandmother of five is all about action. To protest chemical companies polluting her bay, in 2002 Diane climbed a chemical tower, chained herself to it and then did a 30-day water-only hunger strike. As a CODEPINK cofounder who tried to stop the invasion of Iraq in 2003, an invasion she knew was all about oil, Diane got arrested confronting Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at a Congressional hearing. Then she scaled and tied herself to the White House fence (and almost got shot by a sniper). She even traveled to Iraq when the U.S. military was about to attack, putting herself forward as a human shield.
So Diane put out a call for people to join her in Houston on Monday, May 24, to protest at the BP headquarters. Looking for a creative way to expose the company’s criminal behavior (and entice the media, who rarely cover protests in Texas), Diane was inspired by the example of a group of women from Nigeria who took over a Chevron oil rig and threatened to strip naked if the company didn’t hire more local workers and invest in the community. Faced with just the threat of nudity, Chevron gave in.
“If the Nigerian women could use their bodies on the Niger Delta, why can’t we do it in downtown Houston?” Diane reasoned.
Diane doesn’t take nudity lightly. She didn’t grow up in a hippie commune, but in a fundamentalist Pentecostal family in rural Texas. “I was taught that flesh is sinful, it’s the devil. I was so modest that if my sister said the word ‘bra’, I would climb under the table. I was horrified by anything intimate. So for me, using nudity to expose the truth about BP was WAY outside my comfort zone. But I realized that it’s the destruction of our ecosystem by corporate greed that’s obscene, not a woman’s body.”
To prepare for the action, Diane got 100 pounds of fish from her fishing buddies, old fishing nets to drag the dead fish and fake oil to dump on them. She and one of her daughters made beautiful signs saying “Expose BP” and “The Naked Truth about Drill, Baby, Drill” and put them on big sandwich boards. “You could say we was cheatin’ because we decided to use sandwich boards to cover our private parts, but that’s about as nude as those of us from Texas can get,” laughed Diane. “We’ll leave the full-on nudity to the women from California.”