We deliver a *final demand* to the British Museum – side with people, not polluters!

On Saturday 25th February at midday, we paid a visit to the British Museum to deliver a final demand to its Director: side with people, not polluters, and cut ties to BP. 

Our action marked the official end of the museum’s 5-year sponsorship deal with BP, as the exhibition “Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt” closed the weekend before [1], and demanded the museum now drops BP once and for all.

Photos by Ron Fassbender

The letter, signed by frontline groups, repatriation campaigners and climate justice activists, outlined how enabling fossil fuel companies to pursue extraction and destruction in the Global South extends the museum’s “dark legacy of colonialism and empire” in new forms. It also expressed solidarity with “frontline communities, archaeologists, historians, cultural figures, and your own striking workers who want more from the British Museum.”

Despite museum security making on-the-spot bag checks, we joined with supporters to process through the great court, with songs and chants of ‘no new oil’; unfurling banners smuggled inside that highlighted BP’s actions in Egypt, as well as solidarity with working-class communities and frontline activists around the world. The banners took their inspiration from the latest BP-sponsored exhibition, with designs inspired by Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, 

Francesca, a member of BP or not BP? said:

“The issues of workers rights and fossil fuel sponsorship are not in opposition; they are two symptoms of the same problem. The climate crisis can’t be extricated from racism, the domination of oil and gas giants can’t be separated from capitalist systems that reward CEOs with huge sums while security staff struggle to pay bills, both working under the same roof. 

It is greed that leads fossil fuel companies to pursue constant growth and risky extraction; pouring millions into greenwashing and lobbying against climate policy, all the while hurtling us into a climate emergency with increasing speed. Dropping BP and committing to better conditions for workers are two steps the British Museum can and should take to begin building a more equitable organisation.”

For more than 80 years BP have wreaked havoc across the world, propping up dangerous dictators, drilling recklessly, and driving climate destruction. From record-breaking floods to hurricanes and wildfires, climate impacts are intensifying around the world, with the worst impacts falling on frontline communities who have not caused this crisis. The International Energy Agency has been clear: there can be no new investment in oil, gas and coal if we are to reach net zero by 2050. Yet, despite reporting record-breaking profits of £23 billion just weeks ago, BP has also slashed its target to reduce fossil fuel production by 40% by 2030 to just 25% by 2030; and reduced its ‘low carbon spend’ from 2021-22 while earmarking up to £6.2bn for oil and gas projects. [5]

Frontline activists from countries such as West Papua, Egypt, Iran, and Indigenous Australia have been vocal about the ongoing colonial approaches that allow the British Museum to launder the reputation of a company that is actively destroying ecological systems and eroding the human rights of people in marginalised communities.

As long as BP is welcome inside the British Museum, using it as a site for corporate schmoozing and dirty art-washing, we will not be silent.

[1] https://www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/hieroglyphs-unlocking-ancient-egypt.

[2] https://www.ft.com/content/419f137c-3a83-4c9c-9957-34b6609bcdf7

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