VENICE, ITALY - About 140 members of the Venice unit of Greenpeace disrupted the opening session of the 1995 World Chemical Conference Oct. 17, before they were forcibly - but peaceably - removed by Italian police. The members of the militant environmental organization demonstrated outside the Hotel Excelsior on Venice's Lido, staged a sit-in in the hotel's lobby, and chained themselves to pillars and to a table on the dais intheir protest.
Fabrizio Fabbri, spokesman for the 140 demonstrators, said the protest was to call attention to pollution caused by the chemical industry.
The protesters cited 10 companies, including polymer producers Dow Chemical Co., Shell International Chemical Co., ICI Chemicals and Polymers Ltd., Exxon Chemical Co., BASF AG., Union Carbide Corp., Solvay SA, and Elf Atochem, as some of the world's worst polluters.
Most of those companies were represented at the chemical conference.
The protesters especially singled out Italian chemical giant Enichem SpA.
Fabbri said Enichem's Porto Marghera, Italy, petrochemical complex, just north of Venice, has polluted the waters in and around Venice with dioxins made in chlorine production.
The protesters singled out chlorine as a polluting chemical and called for an end to its production and an end to the production of PVC.
The protest interrupted the first two sessions of the World Chemical Conference, sponsored by the ECMRA, and ended when local and federal Italian policecut the chains of the protesters and carried them bodily from the hotel.
John Wyatt, chairman of the London-based ECMRA, the European Association For Business Research, Planning, and Development in the Chemical Industry, invited Fabbri to speak at the conference in an effort to end the protest.
Fabbri refused, saying the point of the protest was not to make speeches but to send a message.
The message was carried by local Italian media, and was reported on TV by CNN news.
Fabbri said five Enichem executives are being investigated by a local magistrate on multiple charges of manslaughter, and ``environmental disaster'' related to the production of chemicals at Porto Marghera, and that another magistrate ordered the shutdown of part of Enichem's facility in late summer.
The investigation is due in part to a Greenpeace report issued in May that said the Venice Lagoon is seriously contaminated by dioxins and furans. The report placed responsibility for the contamination on the Porto Marghera facility.
Marcello Colitti, chairman of Enichem, later acknowledged the investigation, but said he believes it will close with no charges being filed against anyone from his company. Colitti also acknowledged the temporary closing of part of the facility in August but termed that a minor, unrelated matter.
Colitti would not provide details about the investigation, or the closing. He acknowledged the pollution in the Venice Lagoon, but said there are many sources of dioxin and furans that could have caused the problems over hundreds of years.
Colitti was to deliver the keynote address at the conference, but delayed his arrival until the activists were removed.