Indigenous people of Sumatra protest P&G deforestation at Ohio May Day

Protesters carry a banner demanding for P&G to honor their promise. (Photo: The Blackbird Collective/Instagram)

By Robin H., Red Phoenix correspondent, Ohio.

On May Day, activists with the Rainforest Action Network, The Blackbird Collective, and Study Group for the People’s Initiative Development (KSPPM), and representatives from the Pargamanan-Bintang Maria community of Sumatra, Indonesia, marched in Cincinnati to protest against Procter & Gamble for going against their word and continuing to do business with a company called Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL), a pulp and paper company in North Sumatra. 

TPL has jailed land defenders, deforested stretches of indigenous land of the local population, and displaced locals by seizing lands on which they base their livelihoods. P&G does business with a supplier called Royal Golden Eagle Group, which uses a network of companies to control millions of acres of land, including the aforementioned TPL. In doing business with RGE, P&G incentivizes land grabs and stripping indigenous people of their land.

Protesters from Cincinnati and Indonesia joined together to chant their demand: “tutup, tutup, tutup TPL, tutup TPL, sekarang juga,” and its English translation, “shut down, shut down, shut down TPL, shut down TPL, shut it down right now.”

Evajunita Lumban Gaol delivered a speech sharing the perspective of the indigenous people of the region. “Companies like PNG make so much money, they cannot eat that money. We grow from and eat from the land. We eat the rice, the vegetables, and the fruit that come from the land. The land is what gives us life. If PNG continues to do business with corporations that destroy our forest, destroy our land, that means PNG is killing the future generations of the people of my community.”

Although they are not often seen tied together, indigenous peoples’ struggles also tend to be one of the most potent struggles of environmentalism. According to the World Wildlife Fund, 80% of the planet’s biodiversity in forests, deserts, grassland, and marine environments are protected by only 5% of the world’s population: indigenous peoples.

May Day is a celebration of International Workers Day. As communists, socialists, and workers across the globe marched in solidarity together, Cincinnati’s May Day was unique in that workers who live nearly 9,500 miles apart came together to protest the injustice of global finance capital in two different layers of the supply chain, both in joint action to help the indigenous people of North Sumatra to end deforestation and displacement. The protest in Cincinnati shows that in the battle for socialism and against capitalism’s climate crisis, it takes all of us internationally working together to dismantle this oppressive and destructive system.

Categories: Environment, Indonesia, International, Labor, U.S. News, Workers Struggle

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