Who Goes to Jail? BP CEO or Shrimper

On June 17, after watching BP's oil
blowout pollute the Gulf of Mexico for nearly two months, environmental
campaigner and fourth-generation Texas shrimp boat captain, Diane
Wilson, had had more than enough.

So Wilson seized the only opportunity she may ever have to confront BP
chief executive, Tony Hayward, eye to eye, about his "criminal
activities" as top dog at the oil giant.

That day, Hayward happened to be giving testimony before the Senate
Energy Committee hearings. Wilson, who works with CodePink now, had
been on the road and was heading home to Seadrift, Texas, when she
heard Hayward would be testifying at the Capitol. "I was coming
back to Texas and I found out the CEO of BP was going to be in D.C,"
said Wilson, in a telephone interview. "I felt compelled to come. I had
to see Hayward. I had to. And I did."

Wilson was not merely planning to be a passive observer, sitting in awe
in one of the great deliberative bodies of U.S. democracy.

got in and I snuck in some black paint," she said, "and I sat there and
waited 'til he started testifying and then I smeared that paint all
over myself, poured it on my hands, and I stood up and told him he
should be jailed. He should be jailed, I told him."

is a criminal company that has ignored safety regulations at the health
of our oceans and even its own workers," Wilson called out to Hayward
and the members of the committee," before she was pounced on by
security and hustled out of the hearing room.

Hayward and BP need to be held accountable for their criminal
activities as well as paying every last cent they may have to the
families in the Gulf affected by their willful, criminal neglect," she
told me, after she was arraigned in federal court on charges stemming
from several acts of civil disobedience. "Our message to Obama,
and Congress: BP must pay to clean up this mess and our government must
move to end offshore drilling and move us into a new century of clean

Now the woman who has been fighting corporate polluters from the Gulf
Coast of Texas to Bhopal, India, is facing two years in federal prison
and will go before a jury on Aug. 20, which she notes will be "the
fourth month anniversary of the oil spill.

"And that's when I'll go to trial for, can you believe, doing unlawful conduct?"

In the Heart of Seadrift

has been facing off with corporate polluters for many years around the
world. Then, in 2006, she learned that she lived in the most polluted county in the United States.

initiated a campaign against corporations that were covering up spills
and dumping lethal toxins on the Texas Gulf Coast. Wilson wrote a book
about her experiences, entitled An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas.

know, Dennis, I have been fighting, ever since I found out my county
was the number one county in the nation for toxic disposal," said
Wilson. "We had half the waste generated in the state of Texas was
right there in my home town. And we had the largest dolphin die-offs
anywhere ...

"We have the largest mercury superfund so I am used to fighting chemical plants, refineries, oil people."

even Wilson, a fierce fighter for the environment who is usually upbeat
and a determined, seemed a bit daunted by the magnitude of the BP oil
blowout a mile under the Gulf and the lack of a clear, effective

"I have been trying
for twenty years to talk to these politicians," she said, "these
agencies, the criminal prosecutors, the federal, the state ... and nobody
paid any attention. ...

know, I got to thinking, I must be crazy, it must not matter. And then
now with this nightmare going on that for the first time people are
looking at it. And they are saying, you know, is this what they do, is
this what agencies do, is this what companies do?

lie about the releases, they don't want to give you the information,
you know, they don't tell you about worse case scenarios; and you come
to find out, this is what has been going on and ... so I was not
surprised. I just hated that it could, you know, it really is
catastrophic in the Gulf."

Though the oil first befouled the shorelines of Louisiana and Alabama, the brown ooze has now rolled up on the Texas coast.

know in the beginning they were predicting it wasn't going to reach
Texas," said Wilson. "As a matter of fact, they were saying Texas was
going to be kind of a sea bank for fish and that we would have the
entire Gulf of Mexico off Texas protected."

everyone I talk to," she said, "even the fisherman from Louisiana, they
say it's all just a matter of time. ... We had a Vietnamese fisherman in
my home town, and it was right after Hurricane Alex hit Brownsville ...
with all the high tides and the rain, and everything, he went out in
the Gulf and he said - this was mid-Texas Gulf Coast, and he said it
was covered in dead fish. It was small fish, big fish, he said it was

"He couldn't
figure out what was going on and quite frankly I don't think anybody
knows. There is too much that people just find out bits and pieces."

was outraged at how the government agencies dropped the ball and
trusted BP to lead the clean-up and rescue effort itself.

were not reporting leaks," said Wilson. They "had no type of response
plan. Their clean-up program was totally non-existent. Now it has
happened, you know, the unthinkable, I mean the worst-case scenario,
that these companies will tell you will never, never, never happen: It

The frustrated
activist-turned-author said people "are just sitting' and waiting' for
it to happen. It's kind of like sitting there watching Katrina on the
TV set and you just see it get bigger and bigger and bigger, worse one
day after the next...and just watching it happen.

"I think a lot of people have no idea what to do. The answer to almost every question, is 'we don't know'."

latest nightmare scenario is that the toxic pollution won't just kill
off some fish, birds and other animals but entire species, turning the
Gulf of Mexico into a mass graveyard. She said:

never thought it would put at risk the entire species of shrimp or
crabs or fish, and when you start messing with that, when you start
messing with the sea plankton, and ... you're messing with the food

"You might, I think,
for the first time you might see the end of it. And I think it's like
they have cob webs in their heads, and they keep trying to shake them
off and not believing it. I have a hard time believing' it too."

strong will to stand up to BP CEO Tony Hayward and put her body on the
line, including doing jail time, is explained by her love of the Gulf,
of the region where, for generations, her family lived and thrived off
the riches of the sea.

"I was
just outraged," she said of her confrontation with Hayward. "That was
the first I saw the face of the man who represented the destruction of
my home out there. You know, my family has been out there for a hundred
years in that town. A hundred years, and it's like seeing it go.

he somehow represented to me everything that BP was doing. And so I was
directing it to him. I kept calling him Tony. I said, 'Hey, Tony, you
need to go to jail'."

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.