DUNCAN, Okla. – Sixteen people protesting Halliburton Co.'s (HAL) environmental record and its role as a military contractor were arrested on trespassing charges Wednesday when they surged toward a building where company shareholders were meeting.
Another man was arrested on a charge of destroying public property for tearing up a plastic fence holding back protesters.
A masked man beat on a large empty jug and protesters chanted, "The whole world is watching," and "Shame on you," while police made the arrests. A designated area had been set up for the protest, and police had told protesters not to leave that area.
Those arrested were frisked, handcuffed and taken to the Stephens County Jail.
The Houston-based company said it decided to meet in the southern Oklahoma city where it was founded to highlight company operations that remain here.
Critics accused it of seeking a friendly and remote location in an attempt to duck protests. The company is the leading employer in Duncan, which is about 80 miles south of Oklahoma City.
One of those arrested was wearing a Dick Cheney mask. The vice president formerly headed Halliburton, which has drawn criticism for its big government contracts, some awarded without competitive bidding. Its KBR unit provides support services for troops stationed in the Middle East.
About 100 people protested outside a meeting attended by about 200 shareholders.
Shareholders of the world's largest provider of products and services to the petroleum and energy industries looked back on a year of record earnings. Halliburton, founded in 1919, earned $2.4 billion in 2005.
They approved a company request to increase its authorized share count to 2 billion from 1 billion. Dave Lesar, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, said a stock split was planned sometime in the next two months.
Shareholders rejected a request by a group of Texas and Kansas shareholders for adoption of a policy based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Halliburton directors, noting that the company does business in more than 100 countries and refrains from doing business where prohibited by the U.S. government, did not support the proposal.
Lesar said after the meeting that the protest did not bother him.
"I cannot change the fact that my predecessor is the vice president of the United States," he said.
Protesters carried signs such as "Bush Lied," and "Record Corrupt Blood Soaked Profits." Oklahoma Veterans for Peace lined up 37 pairs of combat boots to represent Oklahoma soldiers killed in Iraq.
Jan Gaddis of Duncan held up an "I Support Halliburton" sign.
"It is not some monolithic organization that is devoid of humanity," she said. "They are a very responsible corporate citizen and their employees are involved in the local community and churches."
Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Mann has said potential protests played no role in deciding where to hold this year's meeting. She said the company has done a good job of supporting American troops overseas.
"Halliburton supports the rights of demonstrators, even when they have the facts wrong," she said.
Halliburton shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange late Wednesday morning at $74, down $1.01. The stock has traded from $39.65 to $83.97 over the last year.