Marrakech, Morocco — At COP22 on Thursday afternoon, a group of twenty international activists staged a die-in at the Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP) pavilion, in protest of the company’s environmental injustices in Morocco. Citing economic and health impacts, and dearth of workers’ rights at OCP’s phosphates plant in Safi, a town on the coast of Morocco, the group denounced the company’s sponsorship of COP22. They then marched to occupy the booth of COP22 sponsor Managem, a Moroccan mining company, speaking out against their impacts on the water and health of the indigenous Amazigh people of Imider, who have had their subsistence livelihoods disrupted by Managem’s silver mine.
“These simultaneous actions show indigenous and non-indigenous groups and allies from both inside and outside of Morocco coming together to highlight the similarities of environmental atrocities communities around the world face,” said Kayla DeVault, of Navajo Nation, who visited the Imider “Movement on Road ‘96” protest camp in a solidarity exchange during the first week of COP22. In a sustained encampment similar to Standing Rock in North Dakota, Amazigh men, women and children have occupied the land surrounding the valve of an industrial well for six years, building a democratic village. “The actions also show how corporate sponsors of the COP contribute to greenwashing while ignoring environmental racism and classism. At the same time, people who live in these corporate sacrifice zones sadly pay with their lives and livelihoods without ever experiencing the privilege to walk into this space [COP22] and draw attention to the injustices committed against them.”
In the first unsanctioned protest action of COP22, international activists acted in solidarity with impacted Moroccan communities who have been systematically excluded from the UN conference. Activists simultaneously fell to the ground at the OCP pavilion inside the COP22, sharing the names of locals who have died and suffered miscarriages from mining pollution, and activists who have been assassinated for speaking out against the two companies. They then repeated the action at the Managem booth, sharing song, speeches and chanting: “Protect the water, not corporate greed,” while a large crowd of conference goers assembled to watch. Some Moroccans in the crowd chose to join the protest.
Ryan Camero, a water rights activist from California testified: “I visited Safi, a community suffering from OCP’s unfettered pollution, and am holding the smells, sounds, sights and stories in my heart. The phosphate fertilizers produced there result in toxic waste, destroying fish populations and decimating fishery-dependent economies. This waste has killed 9 or 10 people every year, while thousands of gallons per minute create a brown sludge streak along the coast. The company behind this, OCP, is not only one of the major polluters here in Morocco but also a sponsor of this year’s COP. I see this as horrifying hypocrisy, echoing that of corporations around the world who are trying to profit from the climate crisis.”