Worldwide day of action to protest BP

July 19, 2010

CHICAGO--About 50 activists assembled in downtown Chicago on July 10 to express their outrage and horror at what is perhaps the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history--the Deepwater Horizon oil "spill" in the Gulf of Mexico--and the inadequacy of the response by the government and BP.

The action was part of a worldwide day of action against BP that included protests in 22 cities across the U.S. and around the world. This followed another day of action on June 12, in which activists from 52 cities took part.

Victoria Clemens, who was at the event in Chicago, had been involved in relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana when the Deepwater disaster struck. Now victims of the oil spill join the hurricane victims. Clemens said:

People were really upset about the loss of their livelihoods. "Many families have been fishermen for three or four generations. Some people had dropped out of high school to become fishermen. Now what will they do? They really want to help clean up the Gulf. But when they go to work for BP, they often find themselves standing around doing nothing for lack of directions. There's no organization in the cleanup effort.

Protesters marched for two hours in the hot sun through the crowds in Grant Park and along Michigan Avenue, drawing a positive response from many bystanders. Groups of tourists, wedding parties and concertgoers gave the thumbs-up as we chanted, "BP lies, everything dies."

Jill Elyse Grossvogel, the main organizer of the event, explained:

There was nothing happening nationally. When people put out the call for a worldwide day of protest, I was frustrated that there was nothing happening in Chicago. Somebody had to organize an event, so I did. There is so much suffering in the Gulf. Even the ocean spray is toxic.

Local organizers formed the Chicago Committee on the Gulf Crisis to network with others and organize events on an ongoing basis. Nationally, the Mobilization for Climate Justice and many other groups are calling for a protest in Washington, D.C.-- the "Spill on to the Washington Mall: Oil Out of the Gulf Rally"--which will take place on Labor Day weekend.

While the struggle to prevent wanton destruction of life on our planet today can be very depressing, a young activist at the protest conveyed a mood of optimism. "Back in the '60s, there were a lot of people getting together--a meeting of minds. People may not realize it, but that's happening all around us today, and they need to join it," said Carl McCarthy.

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