“Shareholders, criminals!” boos and tear gas. The general meeting of TotalEnergies opened this Friday morning in a tense atmosphere outside the Salle Pleyel in Paris, where the event is being held. Several environmental associations had indeed called for blocking the AG of the oil giant. As a result, Friday morning, at dawn, dozens of demonstrators tried to enter the section of street passing in front of the Salle Pleyel, in the beautiful districts of Paris.
A dozen of them, seated in front of the entrance, were dislodged by the police, who ended up throwing tear gas in the middle of the group. Access to the section of rue de la salle Pleyel was finally blocked by an imposing police curtain and several law enforcement trucks. This did not prevent several hundred demonstrators - 500 according to the organizers - from gathering in front of the police roadblock for several hours. These activists brandishing signs "Total destroyed, the banks finance, we resist" or "Listen to the scientists: not a single fossil project left", while chanting "Even if Total does not want it, we are here" or "We are what we want is to overthrow Total".
The atmosphere was systematically tense when a shareholder of TotalEnergies tried to gain access to the building to attend the AGM. Faced with demonstrators who took them to task and booed them, some shareholders had to be escorted by the police. So much so that, taking the microphone, Steven Sasha Arfeuille, spokesperson for the Alternatiba Paris citizen movement, was forced to call to order: "We are not here to harass shareholders". The security forces also used tear gas when a few activists dared to try to break through the police roadblock. Four people have been arrested at this stage, according to the police.
“There is a global dynamic. Energy companies are unable to hold their GA", welcomed Edina Ifticene, fossil fuels campaign manager at Greenpeace France, recalling that this meeting comes at the end of a stormy GA season, during which actions have multiplied against the major oil groups, such as Shell and BP, against a backdrop of staggering profits. “Even if the shareholders of Total manage to enter the building, we show that we are there and that we will not let go, despite the police repression,” she adds. "Next year, we'll still be here!", Also proclaimed Steven Sasha Arfeuille, from Alternatiba, at the microphone.
For Juliette Renaud, campaign manager for Friends of the Earth France, "it's already a first victory that Total has advised its shareholders not to come". In a communication to shareholders, the group had indeed "strongly encouraged them to favor electronic voting", "following the call on social networks by certain activists to block the 2023 General Meeting". TotalEnergies wanted to avoid the chaotic scenario of last year, when NGO activists prevented shareholders from entering the AG.
The demonstrators further denounced “state complicity”. "This morning, Agnès Pannier-Runacher recognizes that we are asking a good question to Total, and yet there is a police arsenal here which is repressing the demonstrators", pointed out in particular Juliette Renaud, of Friends of the Earth. On Franceinfo, the Minister for Energy Transition was critical of the "unannounced" demonstrations, which "create disorder in public order", while distinguishing, in substance, "the question raised by these actions and which is a very good question”. “Climate activists are in their role to alert and say that we must speed up. This is also what the government is carrying: we must all speed up on the ecological transition, ”said Elisabeth Borne on the sidelines of a trip to the Côte d’Or.
Among the demonstrators gathered this morning to warn of the climatic repercussions of TotalEnergies' activity, were a few left-wing elected officials, in particular LFI-Nupes MEP Manon Aubry. The Belgian scientist François Gemenne, member of the IPCC, was also seen in the crowd, discussing in particular at length with an individual shareholder of the oil major, urging him to vote against the group's climate strategy, which should be adopted during the GA. . "This general meeting plans to perpetuate the oil company's strategy: ever more fossil projects and an unfair distribution of superprofits which fuels climate and social injustice", denounced in a forum at the end of April the associations and collectives 350.org, Alternatiba, Friends of the Earth, ANV-COP21, Attac, Greenpeace, Scientists in Rebellion and XR.
Inside the Salle Pleyel, at the opening of the GA, which opened as planned at 10 a.m., the CEO of TotalEnergies Patrick Pouyanné defended his group's strategy at length, while saying that he regretted "the conditions in which this general meeting. “Our company was the major that invested the most to build the energy model of tomorrow which will be based on electricity”, via renewable energies, he underlined. On oil, the big boss also justified himself: "The demand for oil at the global level is growing and if it is not TotalEnergies that meets this demand, others will do it in our place", a- he asserted. Inaudible arguments for the demonstrators, some of whom call on the state to "force Total to get out of fossil fuels".