I recently participated in a community report back in Oakland on the recent United Nations COP16. We represented various sectors of the work at the COP including media, youth, international, action and local grassroots. Our collective conclusion? We’ve got to keep going! Focusing on grassroots community visioned solutions while holding governments and corporations accountable for a healthy Mother Earth.
Yesterday, December 7th, was the first day of U.N. Climate Talks in Copenhagen for COP-15. While Sharon, our Program Director, was in Denmark helping pull off the first of what will be a string of indigenous rights actions with IEN and RAN (report coming soon!), I was in San Ramon, CA, with 100 other folks, helping shut down all three gates to Chevron’s headquarters.
The 12/7 Chevron action was another in a series of Mobilization for Climate Justice-West actions to escalate the pressure on corporations and governments who are standing in the way of real solutions to the climate crisis. Ruckus has been a core member of the MCJ-West coalition, helping to pull off mass trainings and mobilizations here in the bay area over the last year, to engage climate activists in an escalating and strategic use of nonviolent direct action in the movement for climate justice.
Please read the MCJ-West report for more information about why Chevron is being targeted, and you can read the full text of the Open Letter to Chevron that was sent out last week requesting a meeting (which has received no response from officials).
The blockade started at 6:45am PST, while still dark (and extemely cold with rain-turning-to-snow). Three groups took over each of the three road entrances to Chevron Headquarters’ campus – with activists sitting in the streets, using their bodies to block the morning traffic from entering Chevron property. Some used lockboxes, and others linked arms and legs. The cops were out in full force – riot gear on – and managed to confiscate some gear in the rush to take over the intersections. Early attempts to lock to barrels and set up a tripod were abandoned for various logistical reasons. Nonetheless, we were still able to block all three gates successfully.
After six activists who were locked together with lockboxes were dragged out of the street by cops after they refused to unlock, the cops managed to clear part of the intersection at Gate #3 and direct traffic for a short spell, until another wave of activists reclaimed the intersection, to the cheering of the crowd who had gathered to chant and support the blockade.
One by one, activists from Gates 2 and 3 were removed from the roadways, arrested, and held in detention a few miles away; while at Gate #1, the main entrance, the blockaders demanded admittance through the gate onto Chevron property in order to deliver a letter to Chevron officials and hold a meeting. Despite tense resistance, activists managed to get through the gate nonviolently, where they were immediately arrested.
31 people were arrested by the end. Most were cited and detained on a police bus, until they were released around noon. 6-8 were then transported to the Martinez jail with various additional charges, but were released later that night.
This is just a brief report on the marvelous action against the Richmond Chevron refinery yesterday. There was a large scale rally of 800 people at the Richmond BART. 500 people then marched from the BART to the gates of the Richmond Chevron refinery. About 300 people laid down in a die-in to represent the deaths of people in Richmond, Nigeria, Burma and elsewhere worldwide due to Chevron’s toxic practices. At that point, I started singing a song to end the die-in and create a diversion as a 14 person clean-up team jumped over the barrier and onto Chevron refinery soil to begin the clean-up that Chevron needs to finish. They were arrested immediately.
The city of Richmond showed up in a number of ways. The Mayor joined us as a rally speaker. Richmond police had shut down the freeway exits that come anywhere close to the action site. Chevron security and police lined the roads in every direction around our solar power sound-truck. I noticed several of them clearly having a hard time not bobbing their heads to our music, and I saw some applause after I sang. I treat cops (and soldiers) like future warriors on my side, because they too can be awakened, and can be fierce, skilled comrades.
In fact, one of our speakers was an Iraq War Veteran. He was nervous, but powerful. Each of the speakers really deepened our collective understanding of the impacts of Chevron. Organizers came from Nigeria, Burma, the local indigenous community, and of course directly impacted Richmond community members. I will work to get the list of speaker’s names and add them on here – the speaker from Nigeria shared with us during the die-in that “this is what it looks like in Nigeria – this is exactly how we are dying there too because of Chevron.”
Chevron is just one of the international environmental criminals that will be targeted in the lead up to Copenhagen (and beyond!).