By Tom Griffith, Martinez Environmental Group
Photos by Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography and by Peter Menchini
September 4th, 2014.
Today was different.
I don’t usually wear an adult diaper or publicly stuff foam into the back of my jeans. I don’t usually crawl through a hole in a fence and put a u-lock around my throat and through the gate of the Richmond Kinder Morgan transfer facility.
But in California we are up to our necks in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions! So today I did these things, along with 7 other community members and an amazing support team.
We did it in order to register our demand for environmental justice, to stop the danger of unnecessary death and destruction driving through our towns, if only for a couple of hours, and to bring attention to how the staff of Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) chose an imminent threat for the people they are supposed to protect. (And they did so ILLEGALLY but that will be covered in the next blog.
Somehow, as I sat there with unusually good posture due to that u-lock around my neck and the gate, I felt very calm. On the day of the action, it went off without a hitch – easier than we expected due to a gaping hole in the fence. We were in and locked within just a few minutes. Four of us locked our necks to the gates and then four others “lock-boxed” themselves to one of our arms. Our support team made contact with nearby workers to let them know we were peaceful protesters. Then we waited for whoever was going to come – the Richmond police, the Kinder Morgan/Tesoro security team – and incredibly, it took about twenty minutes for anyone to show up. Not exactly what you’d expect at a facility full of explosively hazardous materials! Photo by Peter Menchini, 2014.
An unexpected turn of events ended our protest. Although we were far enough away from the railroad track that runs into Kinder Morgan, some “authority” decided that it was “too dangerous” to have trains going by while we were chained to the fence. This allowed them to halt the trains and potentially charge us with interfering with interstate commerce. And no one had envisioned a possible 25-year prison term. So we unlocked ourselves, gathered our tools and left of our own accord.
While we blockaded Kinder Morgan for 2.5 hours, we turned away, or kept inactive, about 7 tanker trucks. We made it on local TV news stations – important mainly for getting the issue of Crude by Rail out in prime time.
The Richmond Police were really good to us – much of that due to our tremendous support team, and the many years of work community organizers put into reforming the once notorious Richmond Police Department. The Mayor of Richmond, Gayle McLaughlin, even stopped by to support our protest. It was so odd – as we left, we shook hands with the policemen, the Mayor, and even the guy from Kinder Morgan. What I think is that everybody knows history will be on our side – if there is a future worth arguing about. Those against us just can’t seem to let go of all that cash money.
And yes, the photo below is a real sign at Kinder Morgan.