CINCINNATI – A southwest Ohio prosecutor announced felony indictments Wednesday of nine Greenpeace activists linked to an eye-catching protest at Procter & Gamble Co. headquarters in downtown Cincinnati.
The nine activists were arrested March 4 after protesting the consumer products company's use of palm oil from a supplier Greenpeace says is tied to tropical forest destruction in Indonesia. The activists slipped past company security and unfurled giant banners from P&G's two towers as a helicopter filmed them.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said a county grand jury indicted each on felony counts of burglary and vandalism. Deters said the charges carry a possible sentence of more than nine years in prison and $20,000 in fines with convictions.
A message was left for the activists' attorney.
Authorities were stunned by the security breach at P&G, and Cincinnati's police chief has called for a security meeting with downtown businesses.
P&G called it a well-planned protest, saying one protester claimed to have an appointment and let the others in.
Deters said Wednesday the protesters used fake identification and entered P&G dressed in business attire with rolling suitcases.
The nine activists spent a night in jail last week and were released the next day on $50,000 bond each, set by a Hamilton County judge who rebuked them for what he called a dangerous and ill-advised stunt. A Greenpeace representative had said the activists were willing to deal with the consequences of their protest and that the environmental organization backs them completely.
Palm oil is commonly used in shampoo, cosmetics and other products. P&G says it is committed to achieving a 100 percent sustainable supply of palm oil by 2015.
Among the items activists used was a tiger suit one wore to represent endangered Sumatran tigers.
Deters said property damage, including broken window locks, totaled some $17,000.
"While some people may be sympathetic to their message, this is definitely a crime," Deters said in a statement. "This was a very sophisticated plan that put P&G, fire and police personnel at risk while causing damage to a major corporation. They had numerous other ways to get their message across without committing a crime."
He said no charges were being planned involving the helicopter used to photo the protest. All nine people indicted live in other states.
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