UNIVERSAL CITY — Three protesters suspended themselves from a Texaco building early Thursday after scaling the sleek 35-story high-rise with special climbing devices and unfurling a huge banner accusing the oil giant of destroying Ecuadorean rain forests.
Roughly two dozen members of the Rainforest Action Network picketed outside the Texaco building at Universal City Plaza to urge consumers to boycott the company's products until it restores areas affected by oil drilling in the South American country.
"We're trying to get the word out to U. S. consumers and Texaco shareholders and executives that the mess Texaco made in Ecuador--the pollution, deforestation and the poisoning of the people--will not be tolerated," said Shannon Wright, a coordinator for the group.
To make their point, three of the protesters built special devices that allowed them to scale the building by using tracks installed for window-washing machines. Once they were up the building, they unfurled a sign that read "Texaco Kills Rainforests."
Finally, from 80 feet or more off the ground, they conducted interviews with news reporters using hand-held radios.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures," said Bill Herbert, who scaled the building near dawn.
Texaco officials did not interfere with the protesters but voiced concern over their methods. Company officials declined to have them arrested for trespassing.
"We think everybody has the right to freedom of speech," said David W. Johnson, a Texaco regional manager. "However, we think this is a hazardous activity they're engaging in that has nothing to do with freedom of speech."
Johnson said his company has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ecuadorean government and a state oil company that outlines the cleanup activities. He added that two audits have also concluded there was little impact to the environment as a result of Texaco's oil drilling operations in Ecuador--a point of contention with protesters.
Wright said her group, which claims 30,000 members worldwide, is asking Texaco to restore the environment in Ecuador and compensate the local people through a plan approved by the organization.
The demonstration ended peacefully around 11 a.m. when the three protesters lowered themselves to the ground and the crowd dispersed. Wright said her group staged its protest in Los Angeles in anticipation of Texaco's annual shareholders meeting next week in New York.
"Our idea is to hit them on the West Coast and then on the East Coast," Wright said. "We want the shareholders to know that the profits made from Texaco have come at a high cost for the Ecuadorean people and environment."