Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
Emergency Committee Builds Battle to Stop the Gulf Oil Disaster
Saturday, June 19: Day 55 of the capitalist oil disaster that is spewing a volcano of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, spreading destruction from the marshy wetlands of Louisiana to the white sand beaches of Mississippi and Florida; from deep in the ocean to its surface, toxic plumes feathering and spiraling throughout the Gulf’s channels and currents.
June 19: The day that 100 people came together in New Orleans to develop plans to initiate resistance to stop this disaster.
About half the people were from New Orleans; others had traveled from Gulf Coast communities in Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida; car loads had driven overnight from Houston and Atlanta. Some people who knew they had to be at this summit had come in from Los Angeles and Memphis. Two people had driven a vegetable oil powered bus from D.C., staging protests at BP stations in every state they passed through on their way to New Orleans.
The atmosphere buzzed as people readied themselves for the challenges of the day—developing a plan for confronting—and stopping—the environmental catastrophe that began with the explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Elizabeth Cook, from the New Orleans- based Women United for Social Justice, put the challenge before people: “We’re here to channel our grief and anger into collective action. We’re here to press on until the oil is out of the water.” John Clark, professor of philosophy and environmental ethics at Loyola University in New Orleans, talked about the economic and social history of the region. Political economist Raymond Lotta of Revolution newspaper and antiwar and social justice activist Cindy Sheehan also spoke.
A highlight was a moving presentation by Kindra Arnesen of Venice, LA. Kindra gave testimony of the slow motion health disaster that has afflicted the people of southern Louisiana since the Deepwater Horizon sank, and the economic vice grip people there face as they lose their livelihoods. She said, “They are slowly poisoning everyone I’ve ever loved or cared about … Are my people expendable?” A YouTube video of Kindra’s speech has over 90,000 views.
A draft set of demands—since finalized—framed the lively and serious discussion that followed the opening talks. People wrestled with the best ways of developing plans that would rely on the people, in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and throughout the country. The spirit of “all hands on deck” permeated the proceedings and deliberations: building this battle by bringing together diverse people and forging new connections: scientists with local fisher and working people; environmentalists, radicals, and revolutionary communists with professionals and artists; activist youth with voices of conscience.
Participants from New Orleans, and some from out of town, didn’t waste time in putting plans into action. On Monday 25 people went to the newly relocated “Unified Command Center” in New Orleans, marched past the security who said they couldn’t enter, and delivered the demands from the summit to a PR representative from BP.
Then, on Thursday, a government/BP “informational meeting” in New Orleans didn’t go as planned. Members of the newly formed Emergency Committee read the demands and demanded that BP and government reps speak to them. An outburst of questions and challenges came from many people in the audience—the entire scene caught on the cameras of local TV stations.
To find out more about and to get involved with the Emergency Committee to Stop the Gulf Oil Disaster—and to sign its mission statement and to make donations—readers can go to its website at www.gulfemergencysummit.org.
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