Attorneys for Greenpeace activists question P&G's damage claims following Ohio protest

Associated Press

Attorneys for nine Greenpeace activists facing felony charges for a stunning protest at Procter & Gamble's headquarters are challenging the consumer product company's damage claims.

In a new court filing, defense attorneys want a Hamilton County Common Pleas judge to order P&G to allow them into company headquarters in Cincinnati to take photos that the attorneys claim they can use to show that window and paver damage wasn't caused by the protest. They say inspection of parts of the building unrelated to the protest will show similar damages from use, weather and other causes.

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The motion also criticizes varying damage estimates — one for nearly $18,000 — and contends that P&G could have gotten replacement pavers much cheaper by going to The Home Depot.

Prosecutors didn't respond immediately to the motion. P&G spokesman Paul Fox said Wednesday that it's a "matter for the courts" and that the company continues to cooperate.

"These activists were peacefully exercising their right to free speech and are being unfairly charged with crimes that they did not commit," Rolf Skar, director of the Greenpeace forest campaign, said in a statement.

Prosecutors have argued that regardless of their political message, the activists committed crimes and caused damage, and also forced police, fire and other emergency responders to be called out.

Both sides are due back in court Thursday.

Prosecutors have asked Judge Robert Winkler to quash a defense request for all correspondence, email and other P&G employee communications about the protest. Prosecutors said the request was overly burdensome, and sought "irrelevant and inadmissible" information.

Prosecutors said recently they have offered a plea agreement that would allow the activists to avoid prison time, but only one so far has shown interest in pursuing a deal. They are all charged with burglary and vandalism in the March 4 protest.

Protesters slipped past P&G's security to display huge banners from the company's two towers while a helicopter filmed their demonstration, which included a protester in a tiger suit hanging from a zip line. They were protesting P&G's use of a palm oil supplier that Greenpeace links to tropical forest destruction.

Palm oil is commonly used in shampoo, cosmetics and other products. P&G, maker of global brands such as Pampers diapers, Tide detergent and Gillette shavers, announced April 8 that it has adopted a "no-deforestation" policy for its palm oil supply and will take steps to ensure traceability of supplies. Greenpeace called P&G's announcement a huge step in protecting rainforests, while saying much work needs to be done.

P&G is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter profit and sales results on Friday.

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Contact Dan Sewell at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell