… daily life was interrupted dramatically one year ago today [August 6th] when the Chevron refinery exploded and released toxic chemicals into the air, sending 15,000 people to the hospital; much like how daily life is interrupted around the globe almost constantly by flood or drought or storms.
Daily life was also interrupted on Saturday — in a good way, this time — by a beautiful march and demonstration outside the Chevron refinery. Highlights included the magnificent sunflower mural that kids painted on the street; the thousands of sunflowers that we carried with us through the streets; the speeches by local leaders including a powerful elder of the Lao community; and the ride in the police wagon with six friends old and new. We were some of the first of 210 people who were arrested at the gates of Chevron’s refinery — so many that the police eventually ran out of zip cuffs.”
You can maybe almost see me in this photo of the pre-march rally near the Richmond BART station (by the wall, green shirt… that might be me and that’s about where I was standing then; the speaker is Richmond’s mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who seems awsome, and who just started a lawsuit against Chevron for the damage caused by last year’s fire).
So we listened to some speeches, then picked up sunflowers (I heard they were acquired by Urban Tilth, not only because they are so beautiful and cheerful and pro-solar-energy, but because they are reputed to pull toxins out of the soil) and signs (here’s my farewell picture of the one I carried – anyone know who did the art and screenprinting on these, because they were gorgeous?)…
… then we marched through Richmond, including a long lonely stretch leading up to the Chevron refinery that followed their pipeline…
…then we gathered on the street outside the refinery. Some of us did a huge round dance, led by some folx involved with Idle No More. There was a welcome ceremony performed by some of the locally indigenous Ohlone (I believe Chochenyo), then speeches from a diverse array of local activists, with an emphasis on environmental justice.
They invited all those who wanted to get arrested to get prepped, then the civil disobeyers (is that a word? maybe “civilly disobedient persons”?) trespassed by going through the gates and onto the property of the refinery so they could be arrested. Not me – too chicken :-( But I stayed with the thousand or so that cheered on our arrested heroes. There was a festive jazz band, a great street painting, and some interesting theater out there.
I’m not altogether convinced that actions like this are effective, but they do get a fair amount of press, so they must be worth something. Plus, it’s good to gather with a purpose like this, not to mention FUN!