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Indybay Feature

Marathon Petroleum Wants Drone Fleet for Concord Police

by Anonymous
A fleet of flying surveillance devices funded by a petroleum company sounds like something out of science-fiction dystopian comic books, but in Concord California such a program is on the October 12 city council agenda.
In a display of capitalism fueling climate change while building a technologically-enhanced police state, Marathon Petroleum is lobbying for a police drone program in Concord. Marathon has offered to pay $30,000 for the Concord Police Department to purchase DJI Mavic Drones, and has been pressuring city council for approval.

Marathon's corporate headquarters are in Findlay, Ohio. In the Bay Area, the company has refinery infrastructure in Martinez and Pacheco, both neighboring cities to Concord. Many Marathon employees live in Concord. Marathon funds the yearly Summer concert series at Concord's Todos Santos Plaza. Marathon is a partners in the Dakota Access Pipeline. This week, a Marathon refinery at the Texas Gulf Coast leaked crude oil. Locally a week ago, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District fined Marathon $2.2million for refinery violations. In the past 20 years, the company has paid $1.4billion in environmental and workplace fines.

The Concord Police Department can make mutual aid requests for the Contra Costa Sheriff Department drone assistance. Last year, such a mutual aid request was made to fly a drone over a Black Lives Matter protest in the city of Concord. The event was essentially a gathering and teach-in. There were no arrests, as the youth-organized protest was peaceful. The Concord police say they want to own drones for emergency purposes, but they've already proven they are willing to use drones on people exercising their First Amendment rights. Drones can have a intimidating effect on people, and can discourage people from participating in protests.

Big Oil has been investing in police surveillance and militarization, as protest over climate change and environmental degradation increases. The oil industry uses the term "critical infrastructure protection" to describe counter-protest tactics, partnerships with police, and lobbying efforts for laws against climate protesters. Buying equipment for local police agencies, such as the proposed Concord drone purchase, is part of Big Oil's strategy. In Detroit, Marathon placed a Marathon Security Coordinator on that city's Public Safety Foundation Board of Directors, as to influence police policy. Now locally, Marathon is trying to directly influence police policy in Concord.

The Concord police officers' union and the chief of police have taken limited public input on the police drone proposal. The Zoom meetings on the topic, hosted by the police, were not well promoted to the public. The police chose not to take public input through in-person meetings - such as in parks or at the Farmers' Market. Public requests for independent oversight have been refused by the police. The police chief has publicly stated to the public and to city council that he will not support an oversight board. The police want the drones, but don't want a system in place to audit the use of the devices.

To participate in the Concord city council meeting on October 12th, click this link for the Zoom meeting log-in information:
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