SF Bay Residents Organize Healing Walks To Refineries
The following is a guest post from Pennie Opal Plant, member
of Gathering Tribes & organizer of the Refinery Corridor
Healing Walks. Photo credit to Steve Nadel.
Prior to organized healing walks in the San Francisco Bay
area, many residents had not been aware of the five oil and
chemical refineries along the Bay. In 2012, the Chevron
refinery explosion in Richmond, California which sent more
than 15,000 people to the hospital raised the profile of
these refineries. The organized walks called the Connect the
Dots: Refinery Corridor Healing Walks heightens awareness of
the refineries and unites activists.
Each walk begins by the Bay with local community speakers
and Native American prayers. Participants then proceed with
Native American elders, community members and those wishing
to remain in prayer leading the way. We then "circle up"
along the way at the refineries and toxic sites where it is
ArtProject The walks ends with local speakers and an
envisioning art quilting project. Participants draw or write
portrayals of communities beyond fossil fuels on a cloth
square. Each square will be sewn into a quilt.
The first walk began in Pittsburg, California in April where
WesPac Energy is working on a permit for a terminal that
would bring Bakken crude oil and Alberta tar sands to the
Bay Area on trains 100 cars long. The walk was 14 miles to
Martinez which is home to two refineries: Shell and Tesoro.
Bakken crude oil is what the train carried that exploded in
Quebec one year ago killing 47 people.
The second walk in May began in Martinez and proceeded
across the Martinez-Benicia bridge over the Carquinez
Straights to Benicia for seven miles. A 50' banner was held
up on the bridge reading "Leave the Oil in the Soil ==
Fossil Free == Livable Future". A kayak contingent with
large banners paddled below in solidarity. At Vista Point on
the west side of the bridge in Benicia, participants could
see the Shell and Tesoro refineries in Martinez and the
Valero refinery in Benicia. Also within view was the old
rusted bridge that the "bomb trains" travel across, three
refinery ports with oil tankers, and several oil pipelines.
It was a vision of what could destroy so much in the San
Francisco Bay area.
Last month, participants joined the third walk which began
in Benicia and proceeded through the City of Vallejo and
across the Carquinez Bridge to Rodeo, home to the Phillips
66 Refinery. As soon as walkers entered the refinery area it
was difficult not to notice the number of security vehicles
and orange cones blocking each entry along with many
security guards. A local resident explained that the
Phillips 66 corporation had sent staff into the community to
warn of the "demonstrators" who would be coming through town
and that Phillips 66 staff "would protect them". The
walkers' prayers at that refinery were especially powerful.
The next walk on July 12 will begin in Rodeo and proceed to
the Chevron Refinery in Richmond for a rally ending at
Keller Beach in Point Richmond. The route also goes by a
Kinder Morgan facility. Kinder Morgan is the largest
pipeline builder in the United States and has officially
filed an application in Canada to expand its Trans Mountain
Pipeline, which would triple its capacity to move tar sands
from Edmonton to British Columbia with massive First Nations
Organizers have designated "joining points" on each walk for
those who can't attend the entire day. There are also medics
available, support vehicles with water and snacks, and walk
monitors. All of this information and much more can be found
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