The first and possibly only acts of civil disobedience began around 11 a.m. as a crowd moved into the entranceway of Chevron's headquarters, blocking access, as police stepped into to try to clear the area.
Kate McClain of Arcada went to Ecuador herself to see what the country looked like after a court there ruled that Chevron had damaged the Amazon rainforest. Her trip motivated her to protest Wednesday's shareholder meeting. "The water that people drink and swim and bathe and wash their clothes has oil in it," she told ABC7 News.
Chevron has refused to apologize for any environmental damage there and won't pay the $18 billion fine, calling the case a scheme to rip off Chevron. "We believe that the judgment in Ecuador is filled with fraud and misconduct. We do not believe that that judgment will be upheld in any court or country that abides by the reason of law," said Chevron spokesperson Brent Tippen.
It's not just concerns for Ecuador that drew the protestors to the company's headquarters in San Ramon. The head of Brazil's largest federation of oil workers traveled there to attend the shareholders' meeting as an appointed proxy, but Chevron officials said he didn't have the right paperwork, a claim he called bogus through a translator. "He came here to tell the shareholders that their money is not being well invested," the translator told ABC7 News.
Chevron is facing fines in Brazil and criminal charges against some of its employees after an oil spill in November. "In Brazil, we believe that the situation there was acted in accordance with the law and in accordance with best practices in the industry," Tippen said.
Protestors are hoping that pressure put on the company from Ecuador, Brazil, and Nigeria, where two people died in a gas explosion in January, will convince Chevron to start acting responsibly. The company insists it already is a good neighbor in the more than 100 communities where it does business. "We create many jobs around the world. We have social investments that are helping build communities all around the world," Tippen said.