Almost 3,000 protestors came out to Richmond, CA, yesterday to highlight this year’s Summer Heat campaign. Raising awareness about climate change and its biggest contributors, the demonstration marked the One-Year Anniversary of the Chevron Fire—a fireball at the Chevron refinery in Richmond that sent 15,000 people to the hospital with breathing problems and injured 6 workers.
The campaign for environmental justice in Richmond has been compared to the efforts to shut down a harmful incinerator in Detroit—it’s a campaign spearheaded by local people of color and environmental justice groups, and supported by large convergences like Summer Heat. Yesterday, for example, saw 350.org joining with the Industrial Workers of the World on an environmental justice campaign. If that doesn’t give you goosebumps, I don’t know what will.
Protestors brought lots of messages to the Summer Heat action, including signs to shut down KXL and stop fracking. The march began with 1,800 people at the BART Station—an interesting point of contention, given the recent union strike—and amassed to 2,800 people after a two-mile walk that converged at the refinery. The Chevron refinery, then, became the central symbolic node where all climate action messages could be expressed. This makes sense, because the refinery is the single biggest carbon emitter in the whole state.
After several speeches, some 500 protestors pushed the police back onto Chevron’s property, and sad down to protest the big polluter. When 90-year-old protestor Ellen Small was arrested at the sit-in, some people in the crowd started chanting “Let the people go, arrest the CEO.” In the end 209 people were arrested for trespassing.
“The Richmond cops were very gentle, apologetic and polite to protesters who were arrested for squatting in front of the refinery gate,” said Angelo Douvos, who spoke to some of the arrested. “We kind of knew ahead of time that it would be kind of ceremonial.”
Protests came the day after the City filed formal charges against Chevron for last year’s fire, and one week after a Stanford University report was released, showing that between 1980 – 2005, the the earth warmed 10-times faster than it has since the age of dinosaurs.