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#MakeThemPay: Demonstrators Call Out ExxonMobil for Climate Crimes at Shareholders Meeting

"To funders of ExxonMobil: start selling your stocks. The lawsuits are coming."

Climate activists

Climate activists protested outside ExxonMobil's annual meeting of shareholders in Irving, Texas on Wednesday. (Photo: 350.org/Flickr/cc)

Dozens of people demonstrated outside ExxonMobil's annual general meeting in Irving, Texas on Wednesday to tell shareholders and the public that because the energy giant's executives knew long ago that carbon emissions were creating a climate crisis, it is now time to #MakeThemPay for the destruction their deception sowed.

The demonstration, organized by a coalition of groups including 350.org, highlighted 2015 reporting that revealed Exxon scientists determined several decades ago that continued fossil fuel use would cause catastrophic consequences for the planet and its inhabitants—but rather than sharing those findings with the public and halting oil and gas production, the company's leaders spent several subsequent years bankrolling efforts to raise doubts about the reality of the climate crisis.

ExxonMobil now acknowledges the global emergency and has backed market-based proposals such as a carbon tax to address it. Climate campaigners, however, are demanding a rapid transformation of global energy systems and for the company to be held to account for the damage it has caused—both to the environment and public awareness.

"To funders of ExxonMobil: start selling your stocks. The lawsuits are coming," Hadi Jawad of Dallas Peace & Justice Center said in a statement Wednesday. "It's time to make Exxon pay."

Since the damning InsideClimate News and The Los Angeles Times reports that exposed the Exxon's leading role denying the crisis four years ago, multiple municipalities and states have named the company in climate lawsuits. Some plaintiffs are coastal communities that face existential threats from rising seas and extreme weather that experts warn will continue to worsen as long as humans continue to extract and burn fossil fuels.

"For years, I've seen the rise of extreme oil and gas extraction—fracking and tar sands—and increasingly extreme weather events of the climate crisis," said Molly Rooke of 350 Dallas. "When Hurricane Harvey came ashore directly across my family's land, climate chaos really hit home, literally, for me. My hometown, like so many communities, needs good, clean, safe jobs like those from renewable energy, which won't do more harm to our climate as fossil fuels have done and continue to do. The era of fossil fuels must end."

But as the international community works to transition energy systems, Rooke added, "it's time Exxon pay for its destruction."

Activists sent that message on Wednesday by displaying a 100-foot banner outside the company's meeting.

"We're fighting for clean air. We're fighting for clean water. We're fighting for generations next," community organizer Olinka Green declared at the demonstration. She also denounced prioritizing profit over people—which environmental activists have accused ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel giants of doing—as "evil."

Donald Tritt, a representative of the Gwich'in, indigenous people who oppose opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to fossil fuel exploration, traveled to Texas Wednesday in hopes of imploring the company's leaders to not drill on the public lands. Since Exxon wouldn't let Tritt speak Wednesday, he delivered his statement in a video shared on Twitter by Sierra Club.

ExxonMobil wasn't the only dirty energy giant to draw the attention of climate activists on Wednesday—there was also a protest outside of Chevron's annual stockholders meeting in San Ramon, California.

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