Seven Arrested at Earth Day Protest in Los Angeles Protesting Occidental Petroleum Project on Sacred U'wa Land in Colombia

Amazon Watch --- Action Resource Center

For more information, contact:

Rania Batrice at +1.510.394.2041 or rania@amazonwatch.org


Los Angeles – Seven people were arrested this afternoon in front of the LA headquarters of the Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy), protesting the company’s plans to drill for oil on U’wa peoples homeland in Colombia.

Protesters installed a 23-foot metal pipeline in the company’s lobby, the end of the pipe jutting through the front doors and onto the sidewalk, dripping blood onto the company’s front steps. Three protesters chained themselves to the inside of the pipe. Twenty-five police cars and fifteen fire department units responded at the scene. Firemen used the jaws of life to extricate the protesters, a process which took two hours.

At the same time, two climbers on the roof of a building across the street rappelled half way down, then unfurled a 1500 square foot banner which read "Warning: Oxy, your oil project = death of the U’wa Indians." Firefighters set up two rescue mats on the sidewalk under the climbers, shut down Wilshire Boulevard to traffic, and waited four hours for the man and woman to voluntarily haul themselves back up to the roof.

The U’wa, a traditional community of 5,000 indigenous people who live in the Colombian cloud forest, have vowed to walk off of a 1,400 foot cliff in mass suicide if Occidental Petroleum drills on their sacred ancestral homelands.

Throughout the region, oil companies have left a legacy of cultural deterioration, toxic pollution and deforestation. In Colombia, oil development has resulted in militarization and violent conflict. Occidental's Caño Limón pipeline near the U'wa homeland has been attacked by guerillas over 500 times in the last eleven years, spilling an estimated 1.7 million barrels of crude oil into the earth and rivers. This is the equivalent of five times the Exxon Valdez spill every year.

The Earth Day protest comes just days after the U’wa tribal leader, Berito Kubaruwa (Roberto Cobaria) was awarded the Goldman Award, known as the Environmental Nobel Prize. The U’wa leader will be attending the company's annual meeting in Santa Monica on May 1.

A joint study by Harvard University and the Organization of American States has recommended the immediate and unconditional suspension of all Occidental’s drilling plans. Occidental’s partner in the project, Shell Oil, has already announced it wants out of the deal, though Chevron has been said to be considering entering the deal.

Last week, environmental organizations placed a full-page ad in the New York Times to address the issue. Those groups included the LA based Amazon Watch and Action Resource Center who organized today’s protest. "The U'wa must not be forced to choose between suicide and genocide," said Lucy Braham of the Action Resource Center. "We want Oxy to respect the U'wa and walk away from this potentially catastrophic project."

"We are outraged," said Atossa Soltani of Amazon Watch. "Outraged that right now in Bogota, Oxy is planning to drill on U’wa land. These protesters today may be charged with criminal trespass, but it’s a shame that Occidental won’t be charged with the same thing for what they’re doing in the rainforest."

For more information or photos of the action, see website: http://www.amazonwatch.org.

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