Update with new video of arrests and inside report-back below:
Today in his first shareholder meeting as Chevron CEO, John Watson opened the annual shareholder meeting touting Chevron as a “good neighbor”. However, at that very same moment Watson was having communities from Houston, Alaska, Canada, Burma, Nigeria, and Colombia locked out of the shareholder meeting. Having legitimate and legal proxies, community leaders who had traveled for days to bring their community’s stories directly to Chevron’s CEO, Board of Directors, and shareholders, were silenced and disenfranchised.
Of 27 delegates from the True Cost of Chevron Network, all with valid legal proxy statements, only 7 were allowed to enter the meeting. This action directly contradicts Chevron’s own policies and potentially violates their own corporate governance laws.
“This is the way we have been treated at home and meeting them here was no different,” explained Emem Okom, founder of the Kebetkuche Women Development and Resource Center of Nigeria.
In an immediate response to Chevron’s lock-out, impacted community members and campaigners staged a blockade sit-in at the entrance of Chevron’s meeting (pictures). As a crowd of over 40 people raised their voices chanting “Let Them In” the sit-in participants committed to not leave until all voices were heard.
The 4 were arrested on trespassing charges and hauled into waiting police vans (pictures). The four arrested at the entrance were Juan Parras a long time environmental justice activist in Houston and founder of TEJAS, an EJ group fighting refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast; Rev. Jerome Davis a livelong civil rights hero who marched in Selma and has long fought for environmental justice in Richmond, CA; and Mitch Anderson and Han Shan from Amazon Watch, an organization working in solidarity with Indigenous communities fighting Chevron in Ecuador.
Before his arrest, Reverend Davis stated, “I represent an area where there is no beautyshop, groceries, or cleaners. Our industry is Chevron. My people breathe their contamination every day and are constantly sick. Our health is not for sale.” He embodied that today.
Following the arrests outside the meeting, attention turned to the on going meeting inside. In what has been said to the smallest shareholder meeting in a very long time (Chevron encouraged their shareholders not to attend) the 7 representatives who managed to get inside had an earful for Chevron.
Aileen Suzara, of the Filipino-American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity, addressed Chevron’s operations in Manila, Phillipines, stating, “Over 80,000 residents in metro-Manila are threatened by Chevron’s toxic fuel tanks, constant leaks, spills and emissions. Chevron refuses to relocate its depot despite the public outcry and a Philippine Supreme Court decision demanding closure.”
Maria Lya Ramos from Rainforest Action Networks Change Chevron Campaign accompanied Mariana Jimenez a 71 year old a grandmother from Lago Agrio Ecuador. Ms. Jimenez asked John Watson about Chevron’s pollution in Ecuador. CEO John Watson replied “ My predecessor (David O’Reilly”) showed great empathy and I will do the same because it’s very clear to us that there is pollution in your area” This reads as insulting as if BP was showing great sorrow for their oil spill. It’s insulting and untrue.
Watson followed with a profoundly disturbing statement to Ms. Jimenez “We’ve been richly rewarded by that acquisition” (referring to Chevron’s purchase of Texaco who operated in Ecuador for decades). I question is the Ecuadorian communities living with record cancer and birth defect rates share the same “rich rewards” Such callus and insensitive remarks speaks volumes to Chevron’s lack of commitment to the communities it operates in.
Having heard enough rhetoric to last a lifetime Antonia Antonia Juhasz, Lead Author of “The True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report“ (which was attempted to be delivered the day before) gave a scathing critique of Chevron’s systemic destruction of global communities in which they operate. After her comments Juhasz began to lead a chant “Chevron Lies, People Die”. Thereafter CEO John Watson abruptly ended the meeting and had Juhasz dragged from the meeting room (video) to the growing chants of “Chevron Lies, People Die”.
In total 6 people were arrested and 20 people shut out by Chevron.
I for one just took a break for 5 minutes to process what happened today. I had never seen anything like it. One hand I’ve never felt so enraged at one corporations action in the face of the communities they impact, yet on the other hand (which is rapidly becoming a clinched fist) I was inspired by a growing global solidarity and an unwavering resistance, one in which I was fortunate to witness and be a part of today.
To take quick action on today’s events you can send a letter to the Board of Chevron HERE