Mitstubishi and Me

THE PRESS RELEASE made it sound pretty spectacular: "Rally at Mitsubishi Headquarters, Bloomington MN, to Protest Mitsubishi's Continued Destruction of Rainforests." It was supposed to be part of a nationwide day of protest against the world's largest industrial and financial empire, which is being accused by the Rainforest Action Network of environmental destruction and human-rights violations. In addition to cars and electronics, the Mitsubishi family of companies network includes a bank and a beermaker (Kirin) as well as firms that drill for oil and mine for gold in Latin America, and export logs to Japan from the Pacific Northwest.

Monday's demonstrations featured the eye-catching visuals that are routine in green "actions" now: Protesters climbed palm trees at Mitsubishi Bank in Beverly Hills, hung banners from the Mitsubishi building in New York, and locked themselves to concrete-filled barrels at Mitsubishi Bank in San Francisco. And in Bloomington--well, four people showed up; tracked down the Mitsubishi office in a nondescript commercial building; discovered that the staff was out to lunch; and finally hung a poster and left fliers.

For a demo at a multinational's U.S. headquarters, it was--well, anticlimactic. A phone call to the office later turned up a disconcerted woman who said she didn't know of any protest, that only one other person worked in the office, and that "there isn't even a manager here." It turns out that Mitsubishi International's U.S. headquarters is in Manhattan; however, the company lists the Bloomington location in some of its annual reports, thus engendering confusion all the way up to the U.S. government, which likewise identifies Bloomington as the headquarters in some documents.

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