Seadrift activist arrested during protest in Senate

June 9, 2010 at 1:09 a.m.

Diane Wilson sits on her front porch in Seadrift. Instead of actually using oil, Wilson used syrup because she didn't want to buy any more oil than necessary.

Diane Wilson sits on her front porch in Seadrift. Instead of actually using oil, Wilson used syrup because she didn't want to buy any more oil than necessary.

Diane Wilson stood alone on an unfamiliar Washington, D.C. street in a white police-issued outfit, her fingers still sticky, hair still plastered to her head.

Eight hours earlier, the 62-year-old Wilson had drenched herself with a bottle of Karo syrup in the middle of Wednesday's Senate Energy Committee hearing.

Wilson, of Seadrift, arrived to the hearing two hours early to protest U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who blocked the "Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act." The act aimed to increase the amount of financial responsibilities oil companies like BP would have to pay in the event of an oil spill.

When Murkowski began to speak, Wilson stood up and told the senator of how she was part of a fourth-generation shrimping family from the Gulf.

"We are sick and tired of being dumped on," Wilson said. And with that, she opened the glass container of syrup she had sneaked past Capitol security and poured it on her head.

By using syrup, Wilson made another statement.

"It looks a lot like oil. But I really, really believe we have to start getting rid of our addiction to oil. So it was just one less can of oil I had to buy," Wilson said.

Two officers detained Wilson and booked her at D.C.'s First District Station. Once there, officers seized Wilson's syrup-soaked clothes, shoes and jewelry as evidence. She was charged with unlawful conduct and could face up to one year in prison. Wilson said she was given a July 6 court date and was released by 7 p.m.

Without a cell phone and in an unfamiliar city, Wilson said she just waited, sticky and in a "white garbage bag" for other activists to hear she was out of jail so she could get a ride. In fact, most of what Wilson described about her trip to the nation's capital reflects a group of strangers turned friends in the name of activism.

She only came to Washington after an anonymous person sent her a one-way plane ticket for Monday.

"I never realized how many people were involved. There's an outpouring ... Everyone under the sun is calling and wants to do something," she said. Wilson has been staying with a group of fellow activists, but plans on trying to find a way home Saturday.

Although, as she admits, planning is not her strong suit.

The idea of pouring "oil" over her head didn't come to her until 10 p.m. the night before.

"Sometimes for me, the best actions have been spontaneous. It was something from the heart. And this was from the heart."

In 2005, Wilson climbed Dow Chemical's 80-foot tower in Victoria to bring attention to a 1984 gas leak in Bohpal, India that claimed 3,828 lives. For that, she spent 120 days in jail and was ordered to pay $2,000.

"I really believe that you have to be unreasonable and misbehaven to make change happen. I guarantee you, 'pretty please' won't make it happen," Wilson said.

At least in this instance, she may be right. After her release from jail, Wilson said one of Sen. Murkowski's aids contacted her to express the senator's interest in talking through Wilson's concerns. They plan to meet Thursday night.



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