On March 15th, approximately 750 people attended a rally and participated in a ½ day shut down of the Chevron Richmond Refinery’s only truck entrance to protest Chevron’s role in contributing to global warming, the war in Iraq and pollution in Richmond, which increases asthma, cancer and death rates in the surrounding area. We sent a message to Chevron that enough is enough; it’s time to transition to a green economy, one that sustains us, not kills us.
Thank you to all the artists and speakers who ensured our two rally was engaging, informative and powerful. Our speakers represent the broad coalition of different movements and social issues that are converging and collaborating in order to challenge and take away the power of multinational oil corporations like Chevron.
Gail McLaughlin, the Green Mayor of Richmond, Gail McLaughlin, Jessica Tovar from Communities for a Better Environment, Henry Clark from the West County Toxics Coalition spoke out against the proposed expansion of what is already one of the dirtiest and biggest refineries in the United States.
An expansion – or more accurately a retooling – would allow the refinery to refine dirtier crude with a higher sulfur content which would increase cancer, asthma and death rates in Richmond and the surrounding bay area. Sean O’Brien aptly described Chevron’s impact on Richmond when he shouted “Chevron is profiting at the expense of people you love, who live in this community,” shortly before he was arrested in front of the refinery at 6pm. The Richmond City Council decides which is subject to imminent approval or rejection by the Richmond City Council.
Mitch from Amazon Watch and Aileen Suzara from FACES criticized Chevron’s polluting practices in Ecuador and Philippines. Nina Rizzo from Global Exchange challenged Chevron’s connections with Global Warming, perhaps the greatest environmental disaster our planet has faced.
Following the rally, we marched through Point Richmond and up to Chevron’s truck entrance on Castro Street, where 71 activists blockaded the road, using lock boxes, chains and oil barrels. Two brave women two light fixtures and after a tough fight with the wind eventually hung a banner that said “No War, No Warming, No More Pollution”. After a few hours, some activists chose to quickly move the police barricades and swarm closer to the police. After a two hour standoff 25 folks were arrested and released later on that evening on trespassing charges. Three other people were also charged – the climbers for failure to disperse, and our police liason for failing to acquire a sound permit for our rally.
Chevron claimed to journalists that its operations were not affected. It makes sense for Chevron to say this because it downplays the effectiveness of direct action and people power. Like many long-time activists, March 15th blockader and long-time activist Kayla Starr cites apathy as one of the chief reasons why people don’t get involved and why they don’t stay involved in social change. Kayla participated in the anti-nuclear protests in the 80s, which resulted in no new nuclear power plant being built in the United States for 20 years. And she’s still active.
But Chevron’s actions were impaired on March 15th. Chevron’s Richmond Refinery has only one entrance into its truck fueling station, where trucks come in at a rate of approximately 1 every 3 to 5 minutes on a normal business day, to buy refined oil, which is sourced from around the globe, including up to 1.1 million stolen oil barrels a month from Iraq. No truck went into the refinery until beyond 6pm. “People have the power to stop the refinery any time we want to, to stop the processing of stolen Iraqi oil,” said Henry Clark of the West County Toxics Coalition. There are only 365 days a year after all. (Maybe a week long occupation is next?)
Thank you to all those that coordinated, came and got involved! It was a fantastic day. Let’s ensure the momentum continues. As poet and activist, Shahid Buttar, said after the action; “DASW’s action at the Chevron facility was not an end in itself. It was a beginning, a beginning of further resistance to come and a growing movement across the country for peace & sustainable, equitable justice.”
Oppose Chevron’s Plans to Expand their Richmond Refinery to Refine Dirty Crude! Rally, 5.45pm, Thursday March 20th. 7pm – Richmond Planning Commission Hearing and Decision. City Council Chambers, 1401 Marina Way South, Richmond. For info: Communities for a Better Environment: (510) 302-0430 Ext. 24, Loation Organizing Project, Richmond Greens, West County Toxics Coalition: ( 510 232 3427).
Tax Chevron; Fund Local Needs: Get involved in a citizens’ initiative campaign on the Nov. 2008 ballot to tax Chevron and bring an extra $16 million annually to Richmond to help fund violence prevention efforts and more http://www.RichmondProgressiveAlliance.net , 510-595-4661.
Join the Stop Chevron list to get info on ongoing campaigns.
Amazon Watch is organizing a campaign asking cities to boycott Chevron. Support solidarity struggles to stop Chevron’s human rights and environmental abuses worldwide. Amazon .