PARIS -- French police threw a security cordon around a shareholders' meeting in Paris of oil giant TotalEnergies on Friday, spraying tear gas and pushing back climate protesters who chanted, “Be gentle, police officers, we're doing this for your kids!"
Shareholders, some escorted into the meeting by police, ran a gauntlet of the peaceful, earnest and mostly young demonstrators, who waved signs attacking the climate record of the French energy company that has reaped colossal profits from price surges that followed Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Their signs declared, “The last pipeline before the end of the world” and “Listen to the scientists: No more fossil projects.”
Protesters sat down in surrounding streets and linked arms to block access to the meeting in a famed Paris concert hall. Police officers carried some protesters to move them out of the way. They sprayed tear gas to force people back.
It comes after climate protesters tried to rush the stage of the Shell shareholder meeting in London on Tuesday, with security guards dragging and carrying them away.
Dozens of activists forced the delay of the start of the meeting by chanting “Shut down Shell,” while others shouted, held signs and linked arms outside as security tried to remove them.
More climate protests could be ahead as U.S. oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron hold their shareholder meetings Wednesday.
The burning of coal, oil, natural gas and biomass is blamed for air pollution that researchers say kills 1.2 million people worldwide per year and is driving the climate crisis, causing deadly weather extremes, hunger, heat deaths, migration and environmental destruction.
The United Nations chief has pleaded for an end to new fossil fuel exploration and for rich countries to quit coal, oil and gas by 2040.
Citing the protests, TotalEnergies had told shareholders beforehand that they could vote remotely. A resolution from activist investors urging the company to align its goals on reducing emissions from the use of its energy with the Paris climate agreement was defeated.
Protesters came hours before the meeting, as dawn was breaking, to try to stop it from going ahead. The standoff with police evolved from there.
“We have no choice but to be here every single time they are here,” demonstrator Camille Etienne said.
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