Environment & Science

Protesters detained in Barbie-themed Greenpeace protest of Mattel over Indonesian rainforest

Greenpeace protesters hang a banner of Ken protesting Mattel's actions in the Indonesian rainforest at a Mattel office building.
Greenpeace protesters hang a banner of Ken protesting Mattel's actions in the Indonesian rainforest at a Mattel office building.
Molly Peterson/KPCC

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Ten protesters affiliated with environmental activist group Greenpeace have been detained, including Barbie and two Kens, who ended a standoff with police by rappelling down the El Segundo-based headquarters of Mattel Corporation.

Greenpeace has targeted Mattel, the largest toy company in the world, because box packaging around Barbie dolls manufactured in Indonesia and sold in the United States contains what are called "mixed tropical hardwoods." That kind of wood is found in virgin rainforest in Indonesia.

Forensic testing of packaging around products sold by other toy makers – including Disney, LEGO and Hasbro – revealed rainforest fibers and pulp in their boxes too, according to Greenpeace. Those toys and their packaging are sold in Europe and Asia. "Most of the leading companies including Hasbro, Disney and others have really yet to address this problem," Greenpeace senior forest campaigner Rolf Skar said outside Mattel's offices. "But Mattel is the biggest toy maker and they’ve been ignoring this problem for too long."

Protesters unfurled a large banner from the roof of Mattel headquarters with an image of an angry Ken that read "BARBIE: IT'S OVER; I don't date girls that are into deforestation." Below that was a link to a website, greenpeace.org/ken, which leads to a Greenpeace Facebook page for the campaign.

One woman, dressed as Barbie, drove a pink bobcat skiploader down Continental Boulevard. An El Segundo police officer on a motorcycle stopped her and detained her before 10 a.m. The woman was later identified as 27-year old Elise Nabors from San Francisco.

Mattel acknowledged it had been in communication with Greenpeace about paper and packaging sourcing. In a written statement, the company said, "We are surprised and disappointed that they have taken this inflammatory approach, considering the open channels of communications we’ve established." A link the company provided to a corporate responsibility page on the Mattel website offered five sentences on sustainability practices and a link to a corporate responsibility report published in 2009.

El Segundo police Lieutenant Scott Doukakis said the goal was to remove all trespassers safely. At midday, a sheriff's department helicopter circled the building. Doukakis said that some law enforcement officers familiar with the practices of protesters would respond to the trespass action.

Additional activists arrested for trespass include Jarred Cobb, Aliyah Field, Madeline Gardener, Caroline Hansley, Noah Mace, Alexa Markley, Sean O'Brien, Mary Sweeters, and Donny Williams.