Town Prepares For Protesters At Exxon Annual Meeting
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Authorities in the township of Parsippany are girding for Exxon Corp.’s annual shareholders meeting on Thursday, where the 111-member police force expects to face a crowd of hundreds coming to demonstrate against the giant oil company.
″At this point I have no idea what its going to cost, but the mayor said he’s going to send Exxon the bill for overtime and taxpayer costs,″ Parsippany police Chief Michael Filippello said Tuesday after a meeting with township officials.
Expected to attend the meeting and gather outside are hundreds of demonstrators protesting Exxon’s cleanup of the March 24 oil spill that followed the grounding of an Exxon tanker in Alaska’s Prince William Sound and polluted 800 miles of shoreline.
The company already has been criticized harshly by consumer advocates, environmentalists and others as having responded too slowly and ineffectively to the spill.
Parsippany, located about 35 miles west of Exxon’s Manhattan headquarters, was chosen for the annual meeting partly because 35,000 of Exxon’s 713,000 shareholders live in northern New Jersey, the largest such concentration in the country, Exxon officials said.
Also, 5,500 of Exxon’s 100,000 employees live and work in the region, said Exxon spokesman Bill Smith.
Edwin Rothchild, energy policy director of the Washington-based consumer rights group Citizen Action, said he expected several hundred people to gather at the Aspen Manor Hotel to hear speeches and show shareholders their displeasure with the company’s handling of the cleanup.
″We’re not going to let them off the hook,″ he said. ″We have a number of points we want to make and we plan to be heard.″
Rothchild said he and more than 30 coalition members own Exxon stock and plan to attend the meeting.
National environmental and consumer organizations also plan to return about 20,000 Exxon gasoline credit cards turned in by consumers responding to a mail-in protest campaign, said Rob Stuart, legislative program director of the 70,000-member New Jersey Public Interest Group.
Smith said the company plans to do little differently during Thursday’s meeting and will hold its usual news conference afterward with Exxon Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lawrence G. Rawl and President Lee R. Raymond.
″The only things we’re doing differently is we’re having pool coverage by camera crews and still photographers because of the apparent television interest,″ he said. ″We just wouldn’t be able to fit all the network camera crews that want to go.″
Smith said Exxon had received requests for 6,300 tickets, although only about 2,200 people would get tickets to attend the meeting.
Filippello said the township has seen such protests before, specifically a sit-in at the headquarters of General Public Utilities Corp., which owns the Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pa., the site of the nation’s worst commercial nuclear accident.
″Our position is that these people have a legitimate right to make the point they’re trying to make, and Exxon has the right to its meeting,″ Filippello said. ″We’re there as neutral observers.″
Filippello said he has spoken with groups representing demonstrators, who were trying to keep police informed of their plans.
He said the township would bring in extra officers for crowd control and would try to keep demonstrators within the hotel parking lot, in order to keep them from spilling over onto a nearby busy street.