Hundreds blockade Chevron refinery to protest war and warming

from the San Francisco Chronicle

RICHMOND — More than 300 people marched from downtown Point Richmond to the Chevron refinery Saturday to protest the company they say is profiting from the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Twenty-four demonstrators were arrested for trespassing late in the afternoon after removing a police barricade, entering refinery property and linking arms, said Lt. Mark Gagan, a Richmond police spokesman. He said they cooperated with the arresting officers.

The protesters were marching against the war in Iraq – Wednesday will mark the fifth anniversary – as well as a proposal to upgrade the refinery’s processing capability. They accused Chevron of profiteering from the oil obtained by the U.S. invasion, which has cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

Kayla Starr, 66, from Ashland, Ore., said she was participating because of her 2-year-old granddaughter, Dahlia.

“I don’t want her to get asthma and cancer from breathing the polluted air, and I don’t want her to live in the world where we’re killing innocent people,” she said.

The demonstrators arrived at the refinery around 1:30 p.m. About 50 formed human chains at the entrance while others held banners, sang and danced.

Gopal Dayaneni of Berkeley, a spokesman for the organizers, said some protesters decided about four hours later to “take it closer to Chevron” and enter company property. Gagan, the police spokesman, said no property was damaged.

Chevron spokeswoman Camille Priselac said that operations at the refinery were not disrupted by the protests and that alternative means existed for vehicles needing to enter and leave the facility.

“We have also taken steps to ensure the safety of our employees,” she said, adding that because of the safety measures, those steps would not be disclosed.

Chevron has said in the past that the proposed refinery upgrade will not cause additional pollution.

About 45 Richmond police officers in helmets were at the scene.

Two young women were cited for trying to hang a banner on a pole.

The protest at the refinery was preceded by a two-hour rally at the Judge G. Carroll Park in Richmond. Speaking at the gathering, Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said, “It’s time to clear the smoke of lies, the smoke of pollution and the smoke of war.”

The protest was co-sponsored by Direct Action 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 Rainforest Action Network.

The action coincided with several other anti-war protests Saturday in the Bay Area.

Bob Egelko of The Chronicle staff contributed to this report. E-mail Anastasia Ustinova at

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