The following is a guest post from Pennie Opal Plant, member of Gathering Tribes & organizer of the Refinery Corridor Healing Walks. Photo credit to Steve Nadel.
Prior to organized healing walks in the San Francisco Bay area, many residents had not been aware of the five oil and chemical refineries along the Bay. In 2012, the Chevron refinery explosion in Richmond, California which sent more than 15,000 people to the hospital raised the profile of these refineries. The organized walks called the Connect the Dots: Refinery Corridor Healing Walks heightens awareness of the refineries and unites activists.
Each walk begins by the Bay with local community speakers and Native American prayers. Participants then proceed with Native American elders, community members and those wishing to remain in prayer leading the way. We then “circle up” along the way at the refineries and toxic sites where it is felt that prayers are needed. Some local critters will often join including deer, squirrels and a hawk.
The walks ends with local speakers and an envisioning art quilting project. Participants draw or write portrayals of communities beyond fossil fuels on a cloth square. Each square will be sewn into a quilt.
The first walk began in Pittsburg, California in April where WesPac Energy is working on a permit for a terminal that would bring Bakken crude oil and Alberta tar sands to the Bay Area on trains 100 cars long. The walk was 14 miles to Martinez which is home to two refineries: Shell and Tesoro.
Bakken crude oil is what the train carried that exploded in Quebec one year ago killing 47 people.
The second walk in May began in Martinez and proceeded across the Martinez-Benicia bridge over the Carquinez Straights to Benicia for seven miles. A 50′ banner was held up on the bridge reading “Leave the Oil in the Soil == Fossil Free == Livable Future”. A kayak contingent with large banners paddled below in solidarity. At Vista Point on the west side of the bridge in Benicia, participants could see the Shell and Tesoro refineries in Martinez and the Valero refinery in Benicia. Also within view was the old rusted bridge that the “bomb trains” travel across, three refinery ports with oil tankers, and several oil pipelines. It was a vision of what could destroy so much in the San Francisco Bay area.
Last month, participants joined the third walk which began in Benicia and proceeded through the City of Vallejo and across the Carquinez Bridge to Rodeo, home to the Phillips 66 Refinery. As soon as walkers entered the refinery area it was difficult not to notice the number of security vehicles and orange cones blocking each entry along with many security guards. A local resident explained that the Phillips 66 corporation had sent staff into the community to warn of the “demonstrators” who would be coming through town and that Phillips 66 staff “would protect them”. The walkers’ prayers at that refinery were especially powerful.
The next walk on July 12 will begin in Rodeo and proceed to the Chevron Refinery in Richmond for a rally ending at Keller Beach in Point Richmond. The route also goes by a Kinder Morgan facility. Kinder Morgan is the largest pipeline builder in the United States and has officially filed an application in Canada to expand its Trans Mountain Pipeline, which would triple its capacity to move tar sands from Edmonton to British Columbia with massive First Nations resistance.
Organizers have designated “joining points” on each walk for those who can’t attend the entire day. There are also medics available, support vehicles with water and snacks, and walk monitors. All of this information and much more can be found at: www.ConnectTheDotsHealingJourneys.org