Massive Protest at BP Whiting Refinery Near Chicago
For Immediate Release
May 15, 2016
In Indiana: Thomas Frank, firstname.lastname@example.org, 219-512-2280
Massive Protest at BP Whiting Refinery Near Chicago
41 Arrested During Largest Civil Disobedience in History of Environmental Movement
Whiting, Indiana — Today, more than 1,000 residents and 70 partner organizations from around the Midwest region protested at BP Whiting Refinery, demanding that hazardous fossil fuels stay in the ground and that the Midwest Region accelerate a just transition to 100% renewable energy. After marching two miles amid the stench of tar and sulphur permeating nearby neighborhoods, 41 of the protesters sat in a circle outside BP’s gates and were arrested by police in riot gear, and released shortly after. This was one of largest mass arrests related to environmental issues and extractive fossil fuel industries in Indiana’s history.
This escalated action took place in coordination with peaceful mobilizations across six continents under the global platform Break Free, in which ordinary people targeted prominent fossil fuels projects in the name of climate justice.
BP Whiting Refinery, which has the capacity to process more than 400,000 barrels per day of crude oil, has a history of putting profits before people. From piling up petroleum waste that pollutes the air of nearby residents, to the 2014 spill of more than 1,600 gallons of oil and tar sands into Lake Michigan – the surrounding region’s source of drinking water – the devastation inflicted by the refinery is felt throughout the Midwest. Enbridge pipelines, which transport tar sands from Alberta, Canada, through Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois to the BP Whiting Refinery, have torn through indigenous lands and in 2010, spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil and tar sands into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River – the largest inland oil spill in the U.S.
The action included a series of speakers and was attended by prominent supporters of the movement to break free from fossil fuels, including renowned environmentalist, co-founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben; award-winning musician, actor, and spoken word artist, Malik Yusef; National Campaigns Director for Honor the Earth, Native American Advisor to Bernie Sanders,Tara Houska; Naomi Davis; and many more.
More than 1,000 people came out to Whiting Lakefront Park for a mass action to break free from fossil fuels and call for the just transition to renewable energy. A coalition of more than 70 organizations also supported and took part in the action, including 350 affiliates, Food & Water Watch, Blacks in Green (BIG), Black Lives Matter – Gary, and the Chicago Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke (please see below for full list of partner organizations).
This mobilization happened as a part of Break Free From Fossil Fuels, a global wave of peaceful direct actions throughout the month of May. Tens of thousands of people are confronting the world’s most dangerous fossil fuel projects and demanding the rapid, just transition to a clean energy economy. Major actions are happening in the U.S., Germany, Nigeria, Brazil, Philippines, Australia and more.
Break Free-Midwest’s 70-plus partner organizations:
100 Grannies for a Livable Future | 350 Chicago | 350 Elgin Green Groups | 350 Forest City | 350 Iowa | 350 Kansas City MO | 350 Kishwaukee | 350 Louisville | 350 Madison | 350 Milwaukee | 350 Minnesota | 350 Northwoods | Blacks in Green (BIG) | Bold Nebraska | Black Lives Matter – Gary | Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Chicago | Chapter Citizens Acting for Rail Safety (CARS) | Center for Biological Diversity | Chicago Area Peace Action (CAPA) | Chicago Southeast Side | Coalition to Ban Petcoke | Chicagoland Oil By Rail | Circle Pines Center Climate First! | Community Power | Concerned Citizens of Cheboygan and Emmet County | Conserve Our Rural Ecosystem (CORE) | DuneCATS | Duneland Environmental Justice Alliance | Detroit Coalition Against Tar Sands (DCATS) | Earth Circle | Elder Climate Action | Energy Action Coalition | Faith in Place | First Unitarian Church of Hobart | For Love Of Water (FLOW) | Food & Water Watch | Fox Valley Citizens for Peace & Justice | Frack Free Illinois | Heartwood Council | Hip Hop Caucus | Honor the Earth | Illinois Climate Activists | Illinois South Solutions | Immigrant Support And Assistance Center | IIRON & UCAN | KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation | Lake Street Church of Evanston | Peace and Justice Committee | Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics | Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MICATS) | Michigan Climate Action Network | Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light | National Nurses United – Chicago | Native Lives Matter.org & Native Lives Matter Coalition | Neighborhoods Organizing for Change | Nuclear Energy Information Service | Pilsen Alliance | Rising Tide Chicago | Southern Illinois Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE) | Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN) | Shawnee Forest Sentinels | Sierra Club – Blackhawk Group | Southeast Environmental Task Force | TakeAction Minnesota | Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) | Unitarian Universalist Community Church, Park Forest | United Church of Christ | Vote-Climate.org | Wateriders | Women’s Congress for Future Generations
“We learned today that April had been the hottest April ever recorded on this planet, and by a large margin. We no longer have time for saying words; we really do have to start taking serious action. Every day, people are putting up resistance to new pipelines, coal ports and other new fossil fuel infrastructures… in their communities. When we fight, we win. So we should probably fight more often,” said Bill McKibben, 350.org co-founder and senior advisor.
“Illinois has the potential to be a leader in sustainability but instead chooses to cling to the idea that a fossilized and dying industry can save us, instead of working to bring renewable industries to our state, instead of streamlining policies that make sustainable growth possible,” said Elizabeth Donoghue, SAFE (Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment)
“Our region has a long history with the fossil fuel industry. BP Whiting refinery, near my Chicago south side neighborhood processes more tar sands oil than any other refinery in the country. It brings the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels directly to my community via the Enbridge pipeline network. As a mother of two little girls, I see how the pollution dumped in my community harms my family.” Olga Bautista, Chicago Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke coordinator
“Break Free represents global solidarity to end our dependence on destructive fossil fuel energy and embrace a just transition to renewable sources. The location of the Midwest convergence is important because the BP Refinery epitomizes how destructive this industry is on the nearby sacrificial communities of people by polluting the air, water and soil.” Jessie Crow Mermel, Forest City 350 Climate Coalition coordinator
“Chicago 350 members have dedicated their personal time to fighting for climate safety. Humanity is facing a moment of truth. We know fossil fuels pollution is altering our climate in life-threatening ways and we can no longer accept business as usual. We demand a just transition to renewable energy.” Melissa Brice, 350 Chicago
“From the toxic waste created by extreme extraction of tar sands destroying indigenous communities in Canada, to toxins created by the BP Whiting refinery producing sacrifice communities in the Greater Chicago area, to the catastrophic effect on our climate, the urgent need for a just transition away from fossil fuels to a 100% renewable energy economy is abundantly clear.” Mariah Urueta, Food & Water Watch Michigan organizer
“Students throughout the Midwest are calling for their universities and colleges to break free from the fossil fuel industry. Many institutions have invested in an industry that threatens our future, our health and our economy. We need to break ties with them and move toward a just, clean energy future.” Lydia Avila, Executive Director of Energy Action Coalition
“The Chicago chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship is committed to resisting violence in all of its forms. This includes the “slow violence” that attacks the environment and that threatens living beings in the far future as well as the immediate present.” Dr. Charles R. Strain, Chicago Chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship
“BP Whiting Refinery is the literal end of the line for tar sands oil — one of the most damaging forms of extreme fossil fuel. But today at Break Free-Midwest, we see a new kind of climate justice movement emerging. A diverse coalition of environmental justice leaders, unions, students, community groups who took bold action together for a just transition to a livable future.” Kevin Whelan, Minnesota 350.org executive director