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Chevron Richmond protest results in arrests

By Robert Rogers
Saturday, August 3rd, 2013 at 3:39 pm in Cities, Contra Costa County, History, Politics, Richmond.

RICHMOND — Hundreds of protesters massed outside the refinery’s main gate Saturday afternoon.

The gathering chanted anti-Chevron slogans, painted a sunflower in the street entrance and slathered themselves in dark molasses intended to signify oil.

Protesters climbed ladders near the gates, and others sat down to form human circles at the edge of the police barricade.

The assemblage at the gates was a culmination of a procession that marched from the Richmond BART station, beginning at 10 a.m.

Protester Andres Soto said the march was a statement demanding more investment in clean energy and improved safety at the 2,900-acre refinery.

“There’s nothing more powerful than people in solidarity,” Soto said, watching as a human shield of police with their backs to Chevron’s gates held protesters at bay.

 

As of 5 p.m., more than 160 protesters had been arrested for refusing to cease trespassing on Chevron property. Richmond Police Capt. Mark Gagan said the number of people arrested could surpass 200. At its peak, the protest included more than 2,000 people, Gagan said.

 

“But this is nowhere near a situation that is unmanageable,” Gagan said. “We anticipated today’s civil disobedience, and the organizers and public safety have worked together to plan.”

 

Gagan said the protesters were arrested without incident and were given ample opportunity to heed warnings. Those arrested were processed at a nearby fire station and released, Gagan said.

 

One man, well-known local gadfly Mark Wassberg, punched a protester and was arrested and booked on assault, Gagan said.

 

Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus was also at the protest, watching his officers, some in riot gear, hold the line.

 

“We’ve handled the situation smoothly,” Magnus said.

 

Chevron spokesperson Melissa Ritchie released a statement late Saturday:
“Chevron respects the rights of individuals to express their viewpoints in a nonviolent manner. We ask that they do so safely, to respect our property and not disrupt our operations. That said, since the fire, we’ve worked to address the underlying issues identified in our investigation report, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s findings, and the issues raised by CAL-OSHA. We are committed to making sure something like the August incident does not happen again. We have also taken action to support that commitment. For over 100 years, safety has been the core of everything we do at the refinery, but safety is a job that’s never finished. We’re committed to collaborating with our community, as well as state and local officials to continuously improve the safety and reliability of our operations.”

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