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.
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.