Today was an epic day in the world of activism! Protests happened at Chevron World HQ in San Ramon with 31 arrests (including me), a massive banner unfurled at the White House by Greenpeace activists, and ongoing protests in Copenhagen, Denmark. Today’s US protests coincided with the first day of the largest United Nations climate change conference in history, which opened this morning!

Why were we protesting Chevron? Or, why weren’t we protesting them? Well, for one, they are blocking science-based climate solutions and targets at COP15.  As one of the biggest and most profitable corporations in the world, Chevron should not be allowed to lobby at the climate talks, interfering with climate policies and solutions!

Secondly, their Richmond oil refinery is the biggest Green House Gas polluter in the entire state of California and is destroying communities and the environment.

Chevwrong, stop obstructing justice!

Today was pretty intense. I woke up at 4:30 am, dressed in 5 layers of capilene and wool, and after eating an egg with arugula on sprouted flax toast went to pick up my crew of activists and drove out to San Ramon in the pre-dawn hours, passing by snow on the ground! Yes, that’s right it snowed in the East Bay!  I met up with my affinity group, Rising Tide, and prepared equipment for the lock down. We deployed in under a minute at the main gate as other affinity groups deployed and locked down gates 2 and 3, just down the road. But the group at gate 3 didn’t deploy fast enough so they got plucked up by police and arrested right away! Bummer. However folks from gate 2 moved and blocked the 3rd gate off after all, so we shut Chevron down for 3 hours and traffic was backed up to 680!

Seven women (me included) locked down the main entrance to Chevron’s HQ from 7am until just past 10am when we  escalated things to produce the final arrests of the day. Since all of the activists blocking the other two entrances were already arrested, we decided to try to get in. The 100 people had dwindled down to around 60 by then but we were so supported with food, water, media liaison, police liaison, medical, legal, you name it!

My crew of seven sisters got up with our lock down equipment from the road walked over to the front of the main gate and sat down, staring right into the eyes of the security and police team, chanting “Let us In!” so that we could deliver a letter to the Chevron CEO inside. After several inspiring speakers and personal speeches from all of us with our bodies on the line, we got up one by one and tried to enter the gate. That’s when it got fun. It turned into an activist vs. police push and shove game, but the police were beginning to use brutality pulling the fence shut as hard as they could, knocking activists over in the process and banging people. I managed to hold onto the fence inside the property with Carling and sat down so as to not be moved. They cops were pushing and pushing us out but we stayed so we got arrested along with one of the men trying to hold the gate open for us.

The police then did something verry strange: lined up with their batons out front and did this “HOO HOO HOO” marching militant tactic to push people back from the gate. It looked very scary and awkward at the same time. In that process they arrested 3 more who were “resisting arrest.”  They put all 7 of us into a paddy wagon, then searched us, and drove us down to this taped off site nearby where they processed all of us, concluding the days 31 arrests. We entered the big Contra Costa police bus where all the cold and hungry activists cheered and welcomed us aboard. Shortly thereafter, they let all of us go except the 8 who were taken to the Martinez jail to be processed since they had more severe charges. As the final 2 were put into the van going to jail, our legal team shouted “What’s your name?!” and the activists yelled back as they were shoved into the van.

I must say having my hands in hand cuffs was quite an experience, especially when they put on the waste chain and attached my hands in front – I felt like a real inmate from the movies in the orange jumpsuits.

I am quite exhausted but feeling so empowered to take action and so supported by the amazing Bay Area community here. Mobilization for Climate Justice, Rising Tide, RAN, Greenpeace and others all share a special place in my heart! I feel so blessed to be able to put my body on the line using peaceful direct action in support of my beliefs and values.

I can’t seem to upload the AP photos here, but you can see some photos on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=341993&id=514120440&l=32d19ffb05

And the links above go to local news coverage of the protest!

Woot! Shut them Down! Clean Up, Pay Up Chevwrong!

Press Release:

Mobilization for Climate Justice West

For Immediate Release: Monday, December 7, 2009

Contact: Ananda Lee Tan, (415) 374-0615

Gopal Dayaneni, (510) 847-3592

31 Arrested for Interrupting Business as Usual at Chevron Headquarters

Protest and Non-Violent Civil Disobedience at Chevron, California’s largest climate polluter, on first day of United Nations climate change negotiations in Copenhagen

San Ramon, CA – As Chevron employees arrived to work early this morning, they were met by nearly 100 people who gathered in protest of Chevron’s global destruction of communities, the environment and the global climate.  Protestors interrupted business as usual at Chevron, by blocking the main entrance to the corporation’s headquarters, as well as two additional entrances for several hours. 31 people were eventually arrested.  By noon, most of those arrested were cited and released.

The protest and non-violent civil disobedience was organized by the Mobilization for Climate Justice West – a coalition representing more than 30 local social justice, environmental, labor, and human rights groups – today to coincide with the first day of the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Similar protests are taking place nationally and globally.

As the largest and most polluting corporation in the state of California, Chevron was targeted locally for undermining efforts to combat global warming and expanding its operations into more environmentally destructive and polluting forms of crude oil like the Canadian tar sands. And, as the 3rd largest corporation in the U.S., Chevron is using its immense financial resources to influence federal environmental policy. In the first half of 2009, Chevron spent nearly $13 million lobbying the federal government, more than twice the amount it spent during the same period in 2008.

David O’Reilly, Chevron’s outgoing CEO, and John Watson, who will succeed O’Reilly on January 1, have sharply criticized domestic global warming legislation and robust long-term targets for reducing climate pollution. Their arguments, rooted in corporate self-preservation at the expense of the health and safety of people and the planet, fly in the face of a scientific consensus that calls for rapid, drastic action to reduce climate pollution.

“By working to derail effective climate change policy in the U.S., Chevron is undermining the UN climate negotiations where other nations are looking to the U.S. to make binding commitments to reduce emissions,” said Cathy Kunkel of Mobilization for Climate Justice. “Chevron’s opposition to significant action on climate change is in line with its history of environmental and human rights abuses in communities all over the world.”

Chevron’s global operations, from Ecuador and Nigeria to Burma and the Philippines, have had disastrous impacts on local communities and ecosystems. Those impacts have also been felt closer to home. Last month, the California Air Resources Board ranked Chevron’s Richmond oil refinery as the state’s single largest climate polluter, emitting 4.8 million tons of greenhouse gasses in 2008 alone.

Local residents in Richmond have been fighting for decades to get Chevron to clean up its act. In addition to global warming pollution, the refinery emits toxic air pollution that has driven high rates of asthma and cancer in the surrounding community. Rather than address the effects of its operations on the health of the local community, Chevron recently attempted an expansion of its operations in Richmond that would have allowed the company to process heavier crude oil.

According to Jessica Tovar, community organizer with Communities for a Better Environment, “Chevron’s Richmond refinery is the number one greenhouse gas polluter in the state.  Now is the time to make a green transition, rather then lock in dirtier crude refining in Richmond.”

“Chevron is a bad neighbor, and the community of Richmond has suffered as a result. We want Chevron to take responsibility for the environmental damage it has caused here in Richmond and abroad,” said Mari Rose Taruc, State Organizing Director for the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. “We want green jobs for Richmond and a healthy community, neither of which Chevron has provided.”

“Chevron has to know that we’re not going away.  We’re breathing and feeling the effects of Chevron’s pollution every day.  While we go to the graveyard, Chevron goes to the bank. We’re determined let Chevron know that they’re killing us in the process of making money.  This has to change,” said Reverend Kenneth Davis from North Richmond after being arrested this morning.

Mobilization for Climate Justice West and more than 20 allied groups signed a letter to incoming Chevron CEO John Watson, calling on him to take three immediate actions:

1.  Support equitable, science-based emissions reduction targets and climate solutions in international climate change negotiations and domestically.

2. Pledge not to support fake “grassroots” campaigns against national climate change legislation.

3. Cap the crude and stop expanding into heavier, dirtier sources of crude oil.

Read the full letter at: http://west.actforclimatejustice.org/resources/open-letter-to-chevron/

Mobilization for Climate Justice West is taking action on the first day of the international climate negotiations in solidarity with allies in West Virginia who are confronting the nation’s fourth-largest coal producer, Massey Energy to demand an end to destructive mountaintop removal coal mining (http://savecoalrivermountain.org)

For more information on the Chevron protest and nonviolent civil disobedience, visit: http://west.actforclimatejustice.org/upcoming-events/december-7th-chevron-protest/

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