More than 200 people were arrested Saturday outside Chevron's Richmond
refinery during a protest over safety issues at the plant and the company's
global environmental practices.
The arrests came hours into a protest that began with a rally Saturday morning outside the Richmond BART Station and a march west to Chevron's gates. By the time the demonstration reached the refinery, the crowd numbered into the thousands.
Protesters chanted outside the gate and drew a giant sunflower using biodegradable paint on the pavement. Police began making arrests when the demonstrators, many of them carrying sunflowers, walked onto company property and refused to leave.
Eventually, 210 people were arrested, nearly all of them on suspicion of trespassing, police said. They were cited and released.
Police Capt. Mark Gagan described the demonstration as peaceful and "very organized."
One protester was booked on suspicion of assault after he allegedly punched another protester. "I was very grateful about how many people in the crowd condemned his behavior," Gagan said.
The protest came nearly a year to the day of a fire at the refinery last Aug. 6, which erupted after a corroded crude-oil pipe that company engineers had recommended replacing sprang a leak. About 15,000 people in Richmond and surrounding cities sought treatment at hospitals, complaining of respiratory problems.
The city of Richmond sued Chevron on Friday, accusing the company of lax oversight and putting profits ahead of public safety.
The protesters said they were calling attention not only to the anniversary of the fire but also to Chevron's international business practices and climate change issues.
Patrick Kennedy, 57, of Emeryville, who was among those arrested, said the fire was a local problem, but that climate change is a threat to the entire planet.
Police spent more than four hours arresting and processing the protesters. Gagan said officers had anticipated there would be some civil disobedience and made sure portable toilets and water were available for arrestees.
But he said police had underestimated the number of protesters willing to be cited and had run out of zip ties.
Jill Tucker and Victoria Colliver are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
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