April 25-26, 2006
April 26, 2006
April 27, 2006

Photo credits (left to right): Getty Images/Michael Nagle; Daily Record/John Bell; Katy Pezzimenti; AFP/Don Emmert; Luke Witkowski; Getty Images/Michael Nagle

The photos included in this report were taken by many different people. They may be used for noncommercial purposes as long as they are properly credited. To obtain credit information, send an email to [email protected] and include the photo's url.


April 26, 2006

The media (and police) were already waiting when youth showed up at Altria's headquarters, which is adorned with the company's logo. Photos: 1, 2

The youth, who had decided to do a silent protest, stood in one long line with their mouths taped shut to symbolize the millions of people killed - silenced - by tobacco around the world each year. Every 7 seconds, a youth would kneel to the ground to represent another person killed by tobacco. Photos: 1, 2, 3

They also held a long "human billboard" that read "ALTRIA SPLIT = PROFIT$ GLOBAL HEALTH" (Photos: 1, 2) and displayed examples of what Philip Morris is up to around the world (Argentina, India, Vietnam)

The human billboard was reflected in a window across the street

Two youth also wore skull masks, cowboy hats, skeleton gloves, and carried inflatable globes to symbolize the Marlboro Man's deadly global expansion.

Youth held signs that said "Altria"…"Give the World a Break!"

They also handed out palmcards with information about why they were there to people passing by. The image on the palmcard was designed by a Wisconsin youth.

Near the end of the demonstration, a small group of youth tried to deliver a bunch of sarcastic "Happy 50th Birthday Marlboro" cards collected by Americans for Nonsmokers Rights from youth around the country. A sampling of the inscriptions on the cards:

  • Happy 50th…150 people died using your product during the time I made this card! Way to Go!
  • Thanks Marlboro for 50 wonderful years of being unable to breathe! Here's to not having 50 more!
  • Happy Birthday! fortunate you had yours…'cuz your buyers won't!
  • Happy Happy Birthday…You take my breath away.
  • We were going to send you flowers for your birthday…but we had to use them for all the funerals instead. Sorry - and you should be too.
  • On Your Birthday, a poem: Roses are red, Violets are blue, Tobacco kills people, Thanks to you!
  • Happy Birthday!! Sorry I can't be there to celebrate with you…but I was a life long customer. Now I'm 6 feet under. Thanks a lot. (opens up to coffin).

The delivery of the cards to Altria's main entrance was quickly prevented by a detective with the New York City police who informed the youth that the company would not accept any materials from them. In response, the youth led the whole group in a rousing rendition of "Happy Deathday Marlboro."

The youth then decided to try and deliver the cards to the Whitney Museum of Art at Altria halfway down the block. Inside the entrance, they explained their desire to deliver the cards and the appropriateness of doing so at an art museum sponsored by Altria. The man at the door explained that the art museum has no connection to Altria's headquarters - "it's just in the same building" - and encouraged the youth to deliver the cards to the headquarters (where they had just been denied entrance). The group questioned the man's contention that he was not connected to Altria, pointing out the "Altria Corporate Security" pin on his shirt. Photos: 1, 2

At the close of the demonstration, all the youth decided that they would like to check out the Whitney Museum of Art at Altria, which is open to the public, with their mouths still taped shut. Frightened by the prospect of dozens of silent young people invading the art museum, it was "temporarily" closed to prevent their admittance.

Youth involved with the FACT movement of Wisconsin posed in front of the Whitney Museum of Art at Altria, to which they were just denied entrance.

By the end of the demonstration a whopping total of 67 police cars had surrounded the area. Initially the youth thought it was an overblown response to their peaceful demonstration, but a police officer said that it was actually a routine weekly drill. Specifically, one officer said, while chumming it up with some Altria security guards, that it was "a show of force against terrorism" -- ignoring the world's biggest purveyor of weapons of mass destruction in their midst.

Agence France Presse and Getty Images took many photos of the youth and Associated Press television shot footage of it and interviews with Shane and Skye for New Zealand television. There was also local newspaper coverage.

Meanwhile a smoker, who spouted standard tobacco industry rhetoric, repeatedly tried to confront youth and engage the media. We think he was planted.

Check out the AFP and Getty Images photos at:
(Click on "Editorial", then "News", then do search for "Altria". 12 photos should turn up)

Check out more photos of the demo:

Essential Action's Global Partnerships for Tobacco Control program links tobacco control groups in the U.S. and Canada with groups in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Central/Eastern Europe to monitor and resist Big Tobacco's global expansion. For more information, visit our website