The more I think about it, the more I recognize that full creative expression — and that includes especially humor and theater and art and music — are what will shift Monsanto (e.g. see this) and anything else out there or in here that is attempting to limit or divert or destroy our fabulous, inherent, squirrely aliveness.
Let’s hold hands and dance and sing our way into a future of loving abundance for Earth and Earthlings. Let’s laugh the limited ones right off the world stage.
This article, about a protest at the Monsanto World Headquarters during the shareholders’ annual meeting, includes both a giant rat (video below) and the “fishy fleet” which has been driving around the country. Here’s the fleet, in Seattle:
As protests have mushroomed around the world, Monsanto is increasingly on edge.
February 4, 2014
by Don Fitz
Rat led away under heavy guard.
Photo Credit: Alternet.org/Jeff Schaefer
Outside, several dozen protestors shivered in 10 degree [F] temperature as they held signs protesting Monsanto’s involvement in producing Agent Orange (of Vietnam War infamy), creating GMO seeds, and grabbing control of food. Most flamboyant was Occupy Monsanto’s “fishy fleet” of five cars, each of which had a sculpture on its hood representing a plant (such as tomato, apple or corn) which has been modified with a fish gene.
Quite spectacular as it drives across the country, the “fishy fleet” is a creation of Argentine-born artist Cesar Maxit, who sees them as a colorful and fun way to draw people into discussions of what’s fishy about our food. He talks of the ongoing upheavals in Argentina caused by Monsanto’s desire to control seeds and the monocultures is it creating. Maxit says, “There needs to be a non-violent escalation to tell Monsanto to stop spending millions to defeat the labeling of food.”
Though known as a St. Louis-based company, Monsanto’s headquarters are in the suburb of Creve Coeur. Monsanto has a reputation for working closely with local cops as well as secret police forces around the world. Cops always seems to know about plans for protests; yet, they are often unaware of critical details, which can make events interesting.
As protests have mushroomed around the world, Monsanto is increasingly on edge. Also on edge during the stockholders meeting, local police were triggered to overreact. During the last big protest in October 2013, hundreds of people stood on both sides (and the median) of Olive Street, which runs by the entrance to MWH.
St. Louisans routinely honk their horns both during protests and sporting events. A local organic farmer was visibly upset when, without giving her a warning to stop, police dragged her from her car and put her in handcuffs for the “crime” of honking in agreement with pickets.
Into the Belly
The fabulous fishy fleet had also been driving on Olive.
Though the cops had been taken off guard by the swiftly executed blockade, they watched with eagle eyes and were able to prevent the lockdown from spreading via leg irons. Musician Rafi Loiderman, one of those inside of a fishy fleet car, scheduled an album to be released on the day he would go to jail for protesting Monsanto.
Outside of his car, Adam Eidinger argued with cops as Paige McCormick peacefully read a book inside the same car. They were trying to figure out how to get Eidinger loose. He pointed out that it would be difficult to cut through steel tubing, that the only loosening bolts were inside the tube, but that he would unlock himself so they could arrest him as soon as the stockholders meeting was over.
The cops backed off. Eidinger worried that people inside the cars could be in more danger if cops tried to smash windows to drag them out. In a choice between locking down outside of a car and staying inside it, he thought locking down might be the safer option.
A protestor named Ben noted that the real problem for those outside the car was the harsh cold. They had prepared for the cold by bringing sub-zero sleeping bags. When several children were heard complaining to their parents about the cold, they let them crawl inside the sleeping bags to play.
As Ben was on the ground braving the cold, friends gathered to repeat the rhyme he composed:
“All we want is a little label,
for the food that’s on our table.”
Though labeling was the chant-of-the-day, for many, the problem goes beyond the right to know how food is being contaminated and includes Monsanto’s pushing of food that causes tumors in lab animals, reduces biodiversity and undermines ecosystems.
The big issue is corporate domination of food. As lands are cleared throughout the world and family farms are leveled to make way for gargantuan factory-type monocultures, indigenous cultures are destroyed and self-sustaining communities are transformed into fiefdoms of foreign capital. Protestors see GMOs as both evil in and of themselves and as a weapon for subjugating the globe’s poorest people.
Meanwhile, Monsanto’s clones peddle the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and twin trade deals that could destroy requirements to label GMOs and prohibit laws that uphold the rights of countries to consider human rights infringement during the manufacture of products or the growing of food.
Obsessed with controlling the situation, police called for a big tow truck to haul the fishy fleet away. Traffic on Olive Street had already been slowed by motorists wanting to see what all the commotion was about. When police reinforcements and the tow truck made their way down Olive and turned into the MWH entrance, traffic came to a near stop, giving motorists a good look at the demonstration.
What Does It Mean?
As Adam Eidinger was being taken to jail he contemplated the action. Three months before, Monsanto’s sustainability officer and number-two lawyer had flown to Washington DC, to meet with Eidinger and Nikolas Schiller, both of Occupy Monsanto (OM). The topic was the resolution being written for the shareholders meeting. The Monsanto people stonewalled support for any such resolution.
They argued that Monsanto was not a food company but a commodities company. They told Eidinger and Schiller to contact food companies and grocery stores if they wanted labeling. What made Monsanto’s logic particularly disingenuous was that out of one side of its mouth it claimed it had no interest in the labeling issue, while the other side of its corporate mouth pledged over $8 million to defeat a food labeling ballot initiative in California.
Occupy Monsanto increased its resolve to publicize three issues at the shareholders meeting:
- the company’s history of chemically poisoning agricultural workers and others with its products;
- the need for transparency by labeling GM food; and
- holding the company accountable for destroying the livelihood of farmers throughout the world.
“Three years ago Monsanto acted like we did not exist,” Eidinger said. “Now they are attempting to portray themselves as transparent by letting journalists from around the world listen to them. It was a huge success to go to a mundane closed meeting, force it open for the public to see, and turn it into a news event the same day that Obama gave his State of the Union speech.”
Since stockholders can submit the same resolution up to three times, Eidinger plans to bring it up again in 2015 and 2016. He hopes that thousands of people will come to St. Louis if the company does nothing to mend its ways.
Who Doesn’t Give a Rat’s Tail?
As artistically brilliant as the fishy fleet is, the rat stole the show. While police prepared to impound the fishy fleet and arrest those linked to it, an enormous rat began running around Monsanto’s lawn, frequently stopping to roll on the ground. In a flash, leaped atop the main MWH sign near the entrance.
An entire squad of police dashed to the sign. The rat leapt down, hightailing it with six to eight cops in hot pursuit. The rat seemed to be getting away as snarled traffic on Olive was treated to a carnival scene. One cop tackled the rat and others jumped on him, tore off his tail, handcuffed him and took him to a squad car.
After the rat got out of jail, I had the opportunity to conduct what I thought would be the first human-to-rat interview. But soon I became convinced that it was not a rat at all but rather, a man in a rat suit. It wasn’t just that the rat was over six feet tall. The giveaway was that the rat could carry out a conversation. I am certain that rats cannot speak English, not even genetically engineered rats. It tipped me off when he said, “I represent millions of rats who would like to see fewer GMOs.”
The Creve Coeur police doubly contributed to the success of the event. After making sure that traffic was slowed as much as possible, they created the spectacle of a rat eluding Keystone Cops on Monsanto’s front lawn. The rat had stayed in character throughout the ordeal of cops chasing, encircling and finally handcuffing him. Just like the real critter, he humped his back over and made little hops and twitches all the way to the police car.
The snail-paced traffic included at least three school buses filled with children pressing their noses against frozen windows, pointing and screaming. Some could be seen jumping from their seats, clapping and cheering the rat on. In just a few minutes, these kids might have learned more about the need to question Monsanto than in 12 full years of education in St. Louis schools.
Monsanto has not yet altered its policy on sowing contaminated seeds or manipulating world agriculture. But who knows? Maybe future generations of genetically mutilated creatures running across Monsanto’s lawn will prove to be one of the best forms of active childhood education in Creve Coeur, Missouri.