Friday, January 15, 2010

Chevron pulls strings, kicks 'Runners for Human Rights' out of pre-Chevron Houston Marathan expo

Our friends at Rainforest Action Network (RAN) have recently joined the effort to demand justice for the people of the Ecuadorian Amazon suffering from Chevron's massive contamination of their rainforest communities. In true RAN style, their first big public initiative is smart and engaging– a handful of RAN activists are "running for human rights" in the Chevron Houston Marathon, taking place this Sunday. As part of the Chevron-sponsored (and thoroughly branded) marathon, the organizers present a big public Expo, at which the RAN runners paid for a table to distribute info about why they're running.

But at 10am this morning, before the Expo even opened, the RAN team – registered and credentialed – was threatened with arrest and kicked out of the Expo building by police. According to the RAN team, Chevron Marathon Managing Director Steven Karpas told them that "higher ups at Chevron are freaking out." And apparently, the Chevron big-wigs' "freak-out" was enough to deny the RAN team of their right to free speech and get them ejected from a building owned and operated by the city of Houston.

This is another pathetic example of Chevron throwing its weight around and resorting to dirty tactics in attempt to hide the truth from the public. Let's hope that Chevron won't be able to stop the registered runners from taking part in the marathon. And regardless, we know they'll do a great job raising awareness in Houston, with plans to unveil banners along the race route, and host a screening of the explosive documentary CRUDE in Houston. Read the full RAN press release after the jump.

UPDATE: Read the Associated Press story.

RAN's press release:

For Immediate Release January 15, 2010

Contact: Brianna Cayo Cotter, Rainforest Action Network, (415) 305-1943 (in Houston)

Houston Chevron Marathon Marred by Denial of Runners’ Free Speech

Runners for human rights barred from Chevron Houston Marathon Expo, threatened with arrest

Houston, TX – A team that is running for human rights in Ecuador at this Sunday’s Chevron Houston Marathon was just kicked out of the marathon’s Expo by Chevron Marathon Managing Director Steven Karpas. The runners had paid for a table to distribute “I’m Running for Human Rights” stickers and information about Chevron’s refusal to clean up over 18 billion tons of toxic oil sludge they are responsible for in the Ecuadorean rainforest.

At approximately 10 a.m. this morning, Managing Director Steven Karpas told the Rainforest Action Network team, “higher ups at Chevron are freaking out” and threatened to arrest the peaceful runners. Police then ejected the runners from the city-owned and operated building for exercising their right to free speech.

“We are outraged that Chevron would deny marathon participants the right to run for what they believe, in our case, human rights in Ecuador,” said Rainforest Action Network runner Maria Ramos. “It is sad that the Chevron Houston Marathon - which raises awareness and money for many important causes - would deny the rights of participants to appease a corporate sponsor that is clearly ashamed of its human rights record.”

When asked for a reason for their ejection, Steven Karpas told the runners they were being removed for “protest activities.” The Rainforest Action Network team’s objective at the Expo was not to protest, disrupt the Expo or dampen other runners experience at this important race. The runners merely wanted to sit at their table and invite other runners to run with them for human rights.

While in Houston, Rainforest Action Network advocates will run in the race, unveil “Energy Shouldn’t Cost Lives” banners along the race route, distribute “I’m Running for Human Rights” stickers to other runners, and host a free screening of Crude – the critically acclaimed documentary about the crisis in Ecuador – for Chevron employees and the Houston community.

Chevron is currently facing a $27.3 billion pollution judgment against the company in an Ecuadorean court over Chevron’s toxic legacy in the Amazon rainforest. Just yesterday, representatives of Amazonian indigenous groups in Ecuador went to U.S. federal court in New York today to enjoin Chevron from initiating a closed-door international arbitration against Ecuador’s government designed to eliminate the company’s potential $27 billion liability for contaminating a huge swath of rainforest and devastating the local population.

– Han

Born and raised in Baltimore, Han Shan is a human rights and environmental justice campaigner living in New York City. He is currently serving as an organizer with the Clean Up Ecuador campaign for Amazon Watch.

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