14 Arrested in Tigard Business Protest About 70 People Gather at Fidelity's Office, Objecting to the Company's Investments in Oil Drilling in Colombia

Tigard - To the beating of red plastic buckets and the chanting of "Stop the drilling; Stop, stop the killing," about 70 people crowded the entrances to the office of Fidelity Investments Friday morning, protesting the company's investment in a Los Angeles-based petroleum company.

Police arrested 14 protesters, who chained themselves inside the office, on accusations of disorderly conduct and criminal trespass. About 40 officers from seven agencies showed up for the protest. The peaceful two-hour event ended with protesters, many of them Lewis & Clark College students, forming a human pyramid.

Organizers said the protesters were from a coalition of organizations interested in protecting land belonging to the U'wa, an indigenous tribe of about 5,000 people in eastern Colombia.

Occidental Petroleum has plans to drill for oil on U'wa land, protesters said. They said the U'wa people had threatened to commit mass suicide if the project took place. Protesters said they wanted Fidelity, which invests millions of dollars in Occidental, to pressure the company into canceling the drilling.

Similar protests have taken place at Fidelity offices in Boston, San Francisco and other cities in recent weeks. Fidelity manages funds for 16 million customers nationwide and has 77 investor centers across the country, according to a company spokesman.

Protesters entered the Fidelity office Friday morning hoping to make a 15-minute presentation. But they said that request was denied. Of the 30 or so protesters who had entered the office, 14 refused to leave.

Ean Koenig, a 21-year-old junior at Lewis & Clark, stood outside the office wearing a cape and holding a plywood shield and a lance made out of a long plastic tube. "I am not here to beat up on anybody," he said. "But this is a fight, this is a struggle. We are trying to take power away from the corporations and give it back to the people."

Vincent Loporchio, a Fidelity spokesman at the company's headquarters in Boston, declined to comment on the protests. "Our responsibility is to weigh the impact of these issues on behalf of our fund shareholders," he said.

Customers who left the office as the protest wrapped up pointed out that Fidelity had a wide array of investments. One customer declined to give his name but did not decline to give his opinion.

"They invest all over the world. You could have protests here everyday," the Wilsonville resident said. "Why pick on them? Go pick on the source."


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You can reach Emily Tsao at 503-294-5968 or by e-mail at emilytsao@news.oregonian.com.
You can reach Eric Collins at 503-294-5974 or by e-mail at ericcollins@news.oregonian.com.

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