Anti-war rally planned against Chevron refinery

March 13, 2008 1:50:03 PM PDT
Activists are planning to hold a peaceful anti-war rally against the Chevron refinery in Richmond on Saturday, protesting the company's alleged profiteering from the war in Iraq, its pollution of the Bay Area and its plans to upgrade the plant.

After the rally, which is planned as a family-friendly event and is expected to draw hundreds of people, some protesters plan to engage in acts of peaceful civil disobedience at the refinery.

The rally is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at the Judge G. Carroll Park at West Cutting and Garrard boulevards.

Speakers will include Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin; Henry Clark, executive director of the West County Toxics Coalition; and Jessica Tovar, a community organizer with Communities for a Better Environment.

"In Richmond we pay with our health; in Iraq they pay with their lives; in Ecuador and Nigeria they pay with their human rights; and we all are paying with global warming," Clark said in a prepared statement. "If you think the price of Chevron gas is too high, you're right. It is time that Chevron pays for the loss of lives and environmental damage."

Beginning at about 1 p.m., protesters plan to use bikes, blockades and boats to stop allegedly "stolen Iraqi oil" from entering or leaving the refinery, according to organizers.

Jen Angel, a member of Direct Action to Stop the War, one of the groups organizing the events, said protesters were not publicizing details about their plans to engage in sit-in activities at the refinery, but said there would be many roles for people who wanted to participate in civil disobedience at a variety of levels.

"People should come if they oppose the war and if they oppose Chevron's role in the war," as well as people who oppose the refinery's pollution and its plans to upgrade the facility, Angel said.

While some protesters may be engaging in activities that could get them arrested, the group's protests at Chevron's headquarters in San Ramon last year remained peaceful and nobody was arrested, Angel said.

Chevron's Richmond refinery spokeswoman Camille Priselac said the company encouraged people who wished to protest to do so safely and without infringing on the rights and safety of the company or its employees.

"As always, our focus is on ensuring that our operations run safely and reliably," Priselac said.

As with past protests at the plant, refinery officials plan to continue to operate as usual and meet the needs of their customers, Priselac said.

The refinery has its own fire and security departments. Because it is a federally regulated facility, it also works with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security, Priselac said.

Angel said she did not expect protesters to be going up against the U.S. Coast Guard and said they planned to stay outside the buffer zone.

Chevron's plans to upgrade the refinery have drawn criticism from local community members, Richmond City Council members, environmental justice groups such as Communities for a Better Environment and California Attorney General Jerry Brown.

Refinery officials, however, have said that the upgrades will reduce overall emissions and make refinery operations safer and more reliable.

The project, the Energy and Hydrogen Renewal Project, proposes to replace the refinery's 1930s power plant, its 1960s gasoline reformers and its 40-year-old hydrogen plant and to upgrade existing hydrogen processing equipment. According to an environmental impact report, the upgrades would allow the refinery to use a wider range of crude oils.

The rally is sponsored by Direct Acton to Stop the War, Greenaction, West County Toxics Coalition, Amazon Watch, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Richmond Greens, Community Health Initiative, Communities for a Better Environment, Global Exchange and the Raging Grannies.