Thousands march to Chevron days before fire anniversary

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With the sound of drums and shouts of “People power!” in the air, thousands of people expressed their anger against Chevron Saturday, almost a year after an oil refinery fire in Richmond.

More than 2,000 people took part in the rally that started at Richmond BART station and ended with a sit-in at the main gate of the Chevron refinery at Richmond Point. 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.”

Police said that they arrested and then later released 210 protestors. Richmond Police Captain Mark Gagan said that the demonstration was peaceful and that there were no injuries. One person was arrested on suspicion of assault, he said.

The protest took place three days before the Aug. 6 anniversary of the refinery accident that resulted in a toxic cloud that injured six Chevron workers and sent more than 15,000 Richmond residents to local hospitals after breathing polluted air.

The city of Richmond is suing Chevron for damages stemming from the incident. “We are holding them accountable for damages to the city due to the fire. We have to let Chevron know that we are serious about this issue,” Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said while addressing the rally.

The mayor said that people of Richmond have suffered for decades. “The fire accident on Aug. 6 last year was horrible. The community doesn’t deserve to be traumatized. Our children have a right to live healthy.”

One of the protestors, Richmond resident Doria Robinson, said that living near Chevron is not easy. “Regular soil and air testing by an independent authority should be conducted to know the impact on the environment. The testing done by the health department is limited. We should know what we are being exposed to,” she said.

Robinson said that her organic garden was damaged due to last year’s fire. “Nothing has changed with Chevron in the last year. Safety is a big issue and we are all concerned.”

Henry Clark from West County Toxics Coalition, a non-profit organization, said Chevron is not a good neighbor.  “We are going to hold Chevron accountable and elected officials accountable. Chevron is not a safe operation at all. They need to improve safety standards,” he said while addressing the rally from a temporary podium.

One of the protestors drove from Auburn, about 60 miles from Richmond, to take part in the rally. “Negligence caused the accident. If Chevron had spent money to improve their factories, this thing would not have happened,” said Dave Stoltz.

He said that the governments should focus on renewable energy sources like solar power, wind, and bio-fuels to reduce the dependence on oil and protect the environment.

Environmentalists contend that the refinery is a continuing threat to the health and safety of Richmond residents and hurts the region’s ecological health. “The Chevron Richmond refinery is the single largest producer of greenhouses gases in California,” said Andres Soto of Communities for a Better Environment.

A memorial to the victims of the accident is planned for Aug. 6 at Richmond Civic Center at 5:45 pm.

9 Comments

  1. Rosalind Welch

    It always bothered me that after these incidents the citizens of Richmond stand in line at Kaiser and then at offices set up by Chevron to receive their “settlement” checks of a couple of thousand dollars . . . like slowly dying cattle. My friends always thought I was crazy when I said that we (the citizens of Richmond) should sue Chevron for $1,000,000 per household of each and every Richmond citizen. There are 36,000 households in Richmond CA. $36B should be enough of a fine to make them take this stuff seriously.

  2. Jeff Jameson

    Granted Chevron has made errors, but in their defense they tried to modify the refinery to make it more green an increase jobs but the Mayor shot it down so The Mayor and and the PAL have blood on their hands also.

    • Jeff Ritterman

      The Chevron project was defeated in the courts due to a deficient EIR. The city council actually approved the EIR and the project. The blood is on Chevron’s hands. Please get your facts straight and tell the truth.

    • Parchester

      Way to keep it corrupted. The members on the city council who are in Chevrons pockets need to go. Nothing is worse then a man who says they are doing things for the people but cares for himself, then chevron then the community, in that order. Know who you are voting for!

  3. gjk

    Where the hell is Richmond?…

  4. ASHLEY MORGAN

    Hello! I’m wondering if anyone that was here shot some good quality footage? I’m looking to possibly use it in a film! Please contact me at ashleydmorgan@hotmail.com

  5. Marin89

    The Chevron Renewal project was stopped by CBE lawyers. Then the CBE cries and smiles as it says Chevron’s equipment is old and unreliable. Meanwhile many Richmond residents are suckered by outside groups trying to shut down Chevron. Comments above thinking they’re going to collect billions for a six hour fire are deluding themselves. Chevron would be smart to just pull out of Richmond and let the leaches feed on each other. Meanwhile the CBE can laugh themselves silly all the way back to Marin…..

Comments are closed.