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San Francisco WTO Solidarity Action Link's Corporate Power, War and Oil Terror
Report and Analysis: Connecting the Imperial Dots: San Francisco WTO Solidarity Action Link's Corporate Power, War and Oil Terror at Home and Abroad
Connecting the Imperial Dots: San Francisco WTO Solidarity Action Link's Corporate Power, War and Oil Terror at Home and Abroad
By patrick reinsborough
As thousands descended upon Cancun to prepare for the week of actions against the WTO, a diverse group of nearly 400 of us gathered in a park in Point Richmond, California. People from all walks of life were united by a common opposition to corporate globalization, war and the destruction that our addiction to oil wreaks on communities and ecosystems around the world.
At first glance the quiet, suburban park would seem a world away from the bomb craters of Iraq or the militarized streets of Cancun, but in reality this community is also on the frontline of the latest war for oil. Point Richmond is home to ChevronTexaco's massive refinery where the first shipments of Iraqi oil - arranged by the U.S. occupation - are arriving to be processed. Local residents, who have spent decades fighting Chevron's toxic terrorism against their own community had vowed to prevent "stolen Iraqi oil" from being processed in Richmond.
The action was coordinated by Direct Action to Stop the War (DASW) -- the community based mobilization infamous for organizing the 20,000 person shut down of the San Francisco financial district in response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. DASW has consistently highlighted the links between U.S. corporate interests and Bush's empire building policies and organized two previous actions at ChevronTexaco corporate headquarters. As part of linking local and global struggles DASW joined forces with community groups like the West County Toxics Coalition and the Richmond Greens. These are groups that know first hand that oil doesn't just kill by fueling war it also kills with cancer and sickness in refinery-impacted communities like Richmond.
The action began with a brief rally in which musicians and poets shared time with passionate speakers outlining ChevronTexaco's toxic legacy around the world from the Ecuadorian Amazon to Nigeria, from Iraq to Richmond. People from Richmond spoke out against the refinery and exposed war and WTO-style corporate globalization as 2 sides of the same deadly coin. Together we celebrated our globalization - the globalization of hope, resistance and the demand for justice. And then we marched. Surging into the streets behind a giant Richmond Greens banner that read "Globalize Justice Stop this War! Stop Oil Pollution! Stop Oil Addiction."
We chanted and sang along with the unstoppable Brass Liberation Orchestra as marched nearly a mile to the refinery gate. At the entrance, unfazed by several lines of robo-cop riot police, nearly 30 people sat down to blockade the road and stop any trucks leaving the refinery. One section of people linked themselves together with lock boxes painted with slogans like "No War for Empire" and "No Stolen Iraqi Oil". The line of resisters was a seamless mix of young and old, local residents and seasoned activists, people of conscience from priests to black-clad anarchists, community organizers to soccer moms. With the setting sun turning the refinery's citadel of tanks, pipes and smokestacks into a fiery backdrop, life long Richmond resident and Director of the West County Toxic Coalition Dr. Henry Clark gave a moving, defiant speech to the crowd. "The real terrorist in this community is ChevronTexaco!" boomed Dr. Clark. "ChevronTexaco has been poisoning us and lying about it for decades and we're not going to let them do the same thing in Iraq."
As we've come to expect from the authorities, our non-violent attacks on the political and economic foundations of war and injustice bring out the police in force. Demonstrators were almost outnumbered by a massive police presence Richmond police were joined by nearby Antioch and Pittsburg police, California Highway Patrol, Sheriffs, a SWAT Team, vans full of ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agents while two helicopters hovered overhead. Many of the officers were in full riot gear brandishing nightsticks and large canister rifles capable of firing wooden bullets, CS tear gas, pepper spray pellets, or shot-filled bean bag bullets. The police admitted to DASW spokespeople that they had met with ChevronTexaco at least three times prior to the demonstration. The police even took the extraordinary act of sealing off all near-by freeway exits and removing all the signs to the rally point, leaving many people unable to reach the demonstration. Who exactly the police "serve and protect" in Richmond, could not have been made more clear.
The blockade held for over two hours as people chanted, beat boxed, performed spoken word, sang, ate yummy Food not Bombs food and generally showed their joyous resistance to U.S. Empire Inc. The media was out in force interviewing local residents, a Gulf War veteran who came to speak against the war and the Mother of a U.S. Marine who was carrying a sign saying "I Don't Want My Son to Die For Oil". One of the high points was hearing the voices of organizers in Cancun (via cell phone speaker and sound system) giving an update from the spokes council where our comrades were planning the next days actions. We were also over-joyed to receive reports of a solidarity action in Vancouver which shut down ChevronTexaco's office showing that global destruction can be met with global resistance!
Around 8:30 pm after shutting down distribution of any refined oil for the evening, the blockaders decided our goals for the day had been met and call for us to march out victoriously as a group. After a final victory speak-out, with no arrests we marched away under the full moonlight to the sound the brass band and chants of "We'll be back!"
The action comes at a critical time for the peace and justice movement in the U.S. With the weapons of mass destruction excuse discarded and still no solid evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and the 9-11 tragedy, millions of Americans are questioning the Bush administration's motivations for the invasion and ongoing occupation. More and more people are hearing us when we say you can't understand U.S. foreign policy without using the words "oil" and "empire". While U.S. and Iraqi casualties mount and the occupations billion dollar a week price tag threatens cross-sector budget cuts, ChevronTexaco's has quadrupled their profits over the last three-month period, making $1.6 billion dollars as a result of war-inflated oil prices.
As ChevronTexaco -- notorious for its close links to the Bush administration -- begins to ship Iraqi oil into its Richmond refinery, its becoming clearer and clearer that the invasion was about asserting U.S. control over Middle Eastern oil. Presidential Executive Order 13303, provides further evidence of Big Oil's influence on U.S. foreign policy. The order, which exempts U.S. oil companies from any liability for environmental, human rights or other abuses related to their handling of Iraqi oil, was passed with almost no media attention in May.
Our clear, articulate acts of resistance and efforts to build the growing global movement for justice, direct democracy and ecological sanity is beginning to break through the corporate media's information blockade. Increasingly people understand that WTO-style corporate globalization and the U.S. invasion of Iraq are both part of the same efforts to restructure economies around the world to benefit corporations at the expense of workers, the environment and local democracy. DASW is committed to exposing the empire by showing how the U.S. military, corporate power and the war at home (economic injustice, racism, police brutality etc.) are all part of one destructive system that is suffocating all our hopes for the future.
As Zapatista sub-commandante Marcos said in his message to the assembly in Cancun, we all are united in a "movement against the globalization of death" because "this is a war. A war on humanity. The globalization of those who are above is nothing more than a global machine that feeds on blood and defecates dollars…. The entire world is in
dispute between two projects of globalization. Globalization from above, which globalizes conformity, cynicism, stupidity, war, destruction, death, and forgetting, and globalization from below, which globalizes rebellion, hope, creativity, intelligence, imagination, life, memory, and the construction of a world with room for many worlds."
The reports from Cancun of Korean farmer Kyung Hae Lee's act of ritual suicide to protest the WTO are reverberating around the world. His act of sacrifice exposes the WTO and its corporatized world of assimilation and homogenity as a doomsday machine and a threat to all cultures, diversity and life itself. The global battle lines are drawn between those that stand for life, justice and the future versus those who exploit and destroy for personal profit. The clash of world views may be loudest right now in Cancun but ultimately it is echoing through all our communities. It is up to each of us must to choose between the death of silent conformity or the life of joyful resistance.
It is here in the United States, inside the myopia of Bush's imperial fish bowl that the critical work to choose life or greed must be done. Without the passive support of the U.S. public the elite effort to remake the world cannot succeed. This empire, like all others, is built on pillars of sand. The corporate take over of the planet relies on the privileged to remain apathetic, ignorant and silent. But those times are changing. The flames of global resistance are slowly thawing America out of the imposed numbness of imperial routine. And now things get interesting…..
Patrick Reinsborough, is a San Francisco based direct action organizer, co-founder of the smartMeme project (http://www.smartmeme.com) and a member of the DASW Media Collective. For more info on DASW and this action: http://www.ActAgainstWar.org