Protesters hang from anti-Chevron banner on bridge

May 23, 2011 7:36:32 PM PDT
Seven protesters are facing charges after a stunt that had three of them dangling from ropes below the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. They did it to try to convince Chevron and its shareholders to clean up toxic waste left behind by oil production in Ecuador.

Swaying in the wind below a giant banner, Matt Leonard, one of the three climbers, told ABC7 by cell phone he wasn't worried for his safety.

"We're actually extremely safe," said Leonard. "The real danger is what's happening in the Amazon and Ecuador where Chevron has left its legacy of oil spills."

The demonstrators are calling on Chevron to clean up waste left behind by oil drilling in the Amazon -- waste they say has led to cancer and birth defects. Their tactics did not amuse the California Highway Patrol. Three climbers and four others were taken to jail and booked on suspicion of trespassing, that is, once authorities actually found them.

The Highway Patrol says after they were dropped off, the protesters rappelled all the way over the side of the bridge, meaning that drivers coming across the bridge couldn't see them. That's why the first call to report the climbers actually came from someone in a boat.

"Our officers got a little bit of misinformation on where the exactly location of these protesters were, which led to the delay in our actually locating them," said CHP Ofc. Chris Rardin.

"If a few people have to get arrested to help Chevron see this message loud and clear, so be it," said protester Thomas Cavanaugh as he was being arrested.

Chevron did see the message, the company just doesn't agree with it. Spokesman Kent Robertson told ABC7 that Texaco, which Chevron now owns, already did its part of the cleanup, and what's left is Ecaudor's responsibility.

"The Ecuadorian government has continued to produce oil in the region," said Robertson. "They've made more than $70 billion off the oil operations and they haven't spent a penny of it cleaning up what they are admittedly responsible for."

Though an Ecuadorian court has ruled against Chevron, Robertson insists it wasn't a fair trial.

"The verdict that we've seen in Ecuador is the product of fraud, it's the product of misconduct, and we don't' think it's enforceable in the United States," he said.

However, protesters who disagree plan to share their side loudly at Chevron's annual shareholders' meeting this week.


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