CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A Hamilton County grand jury has indicted the nine Greenpeace protesters in connection with hanging two large banners at Procter & Gamble's downtown headquarters last week, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced Wednesday.
The protesters were indicted on burglary (a second degree felony) and vandalism (a fourth degree felony) charges. If convicted of charges, the protesters face the possibility of 9.5 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, the prosecutor's office said.
Prosecutors say the nine people entered P&G shortly after 1 p.m. March 4. Wearing business suits and carrying rolling suitcases, the group entered the highly secured building using fake identification. The group went to a specific floor and were able to open windows and rappel down the building to unfurl banners protesting how P&G secures palm oil for use in some of their products.
The prosecutor's office said it does not anticipate any charges against anyone associated with a helicopter that was flying at low-altitude over the scene while the banners were hanging outside the buildings. Passengers who chartered the helicopter took photographs during the protest.
"While some people may be sympathetic to their message, this is definitely a crime," Deters said. "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. They should be prepared to face the consequences."
Following the indictment, Greenpeace released the following statement Wednesday from Joao Talocchi, the organization's palm oil campaigner:
"Nine Greenpeace activists were indicted today, yet Indonesia's forests are still disappearing at a rate of more than nine Olympic swimming pools each minute; which is the greater crime? Peaceful protest has long been a valuable way to bring important issues to the public attention and to companies like P&G that have the ability to influence the fate of the forests and the last remaining Sumatran tigers.
Unilever, L'Oreal, Mars, Kellogg and Nestle have already committed to keeping rainforest destruction out of their products. There's no reason for P&G not to follow suit."
Some of those indicted were hanging from some type of rope or wires suspended between two P&G buildings during the incident, the prosecutor's office said.
The protesters secured the windows in such a way that prevented responding P&G security or other law enforcement from opening the windows. The approximate 90-minute incident ended when protesters surrendered to Cincinnati Police.
P&G sustained approximately $17,000 in damages primarily to windows. There was also some minor roof damage.
The prosecutor's office said 24 Cincinnati Police officers and 12 firefighters responded to the incident.
Those indicted are: