updated 2/16/2005 12:02:28 PM ET 2005-02-16T17:02:28

Protesters with foghorns and whistles burst into the International Petroleum Exchange on Wednesday, disrupting oil trading in the world’s second largest energy futures market on the day the Kyoto Protocol on global warming came into force.

The invasion into the trading pit by about 35 demonstrators forced the exchange to suspend open outcry trading for more than an hour.

Greenpeace spokesman Ben Stewart said the group was trying to make as much noise as possible to prevent trading and highlight shortcomings of the Kyoto agreement.

London’s Metropolitan police said they were called at 1:55 p.m. to reports of protesters gaining access to the IPE building. Open outcry trading, which is done verbally in a trading pit, begins at 2 p.m.

The IPE said it suspended the open outcry session until 3:10 p.m. and all the protesters were ejected from the building by 3:15 p.m. Traders continued to make deals throughout the disturbance by using the exchange’s electronic trading platform, the IPE said.

A trader who spoke on condition of anonymity said the activists ran around the floor, blowing whistles to disrupt trading.

Greenpeace executive director Steven Tindale said traders tried to force several of the protesters out of the trading pit.

“We were nonviolent and peaceful and we made it clear that’s what we were there for, but there were quite a few blows raining down on our heads,” Tindale said.

“They pulled a metal bookcase down on our heads. They were trying to use that to push us back out so that was the moment we decided to retreat for everyone’s safety.”

One protester was injured. He was treated at the scene before being taken to hospital.

Outside, three climbers scaled the building, which is located near Tower Bridge, to hang a banner from the roof declaring “Climate change kills. Stop pushing oil.”

The Kyoto global warming pact went into force Wednesday, imposing limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that scientists blame for rising world temperatures, melting glaciers and rising oceans.

Stewart said by telephone from outside the exchange that the reason for the protest was that the Kyoto accord “has modest targets to cut greenhouse gases.

“We need huge cuts if we are going to divert dangerous climate change. So today we said that by stopping oil being traded, and we’re asking the world to take a deep breath on this and consider where our oil addiction is taking us,” he said.

The IPE dispensed with its morning open outcry trading session last year, replacing it with electronic trading in a move designed to boost efficiency. That angered some traders who fear they will be put out of business.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Brent crude for April delivery was down 17 cents to $45.22 a barrel. Light sweet crude for March delivery was up 38 cents at $47.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The Nymex, the world’s biggest energy futures marketplace, announced plans Monday to open an exchange in London to rival the IPE. The new Nymex market will be committed to open outcry trading.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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