When the delegations from affected communities emerged from Chevron’s shareholder meeting today, the anger and disappointment were palpable. But so was the passion and resolve.
The crowd of close to 200 protesters outside welcomed the delegates with applause and cheers. Up to that point, the protest had been a lively and colorful affair, with a troupe of dancing money bags led by Chevron CEO John Watson himself, an oil-obsessed “War Pig,” a group of activists in sea turtle costumes, and dozens of folks who came out to make their voice heard or lend their support.
Then the delegates began to address the crowd one by one and things quickly became deadly serious. Servio Curipoma was the first to speak, and I have rarely been so moved in my life. With rage and frustration he couldn’t possibly have concealed, Servio spoke about losing both of his parents to cancer caused by Chevron’s oil pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon. But his dedication to seeing Chevron brought to justice did not waver.
“We were expecting more from Chevron. What we got was a slap in the face… I’m here today because my parents died from Chevron’s oil in Ecuador,” Servio said. “But I will never kneel to them. I will keep fighting.”
I wasn’t inside so I can’t speak to what went down. But I can say that Servio’s frustration was shared by everyone who did go inside Chevron’s shareholder meeting. One activist described Chevron as “militarized” because the company “had hundreds of security in there simply to stop us from speaking. But it won’t work.,” she said.
Reverend Kenneth Davis of Richmond, CA summed up the demands of all the delegates simply but powerfully: “We’re here because we want to live. We want our children to live.”
RAN activists hung a banner on the Richmond bridge this past Monday, two days before the shareholder meeting, calling on Chevron to clean up Ecuador. The action took place right next to the company’s Richmond refinery, one of the top ten sources of pollution in all of California.
We’ll have more report backs and video in the coming days. For now just wanted to share a few thoughts and some photos.
My main takeaway from today: There is no amount of human suffering so great that Chevron can’t ignore all that in its quest for power and money. Despicable.
Photos by Amos Lee Gregory Jr. except photo of Rev. Kenneth Davis by Mike G.