By John Geluardi, East Bay Express
16 April 2014
Security guards forcibly removed Paul Paz y Miño, an employee of the environmental group Amazon Watch, from a Chevron-sponsored event today in Oakland because he was carrying flyers that he said he had planned to distribute outside the building after the program. When Paz y Miño, who had paid $75 for a ticket to the public event, refused to leave, guards forcibly removed him.
Called the "Illuminating Ideas: ENERGY & Sustainability Summit," the economic development event was held at the Oakland Marriott. It was organized by the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and primarily sponsored by Chevron. PG&E, Bank of America, and Merrill Lynch were also sponsors. The event offered several panel discussions on green infrastructure, energy smart cities, and private and public partnerships. The keynote speaker was Jon Wellinghoff, the immediate past president of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was also a speaker at the event.
Paz y Miño had brought along numerous copies of a handout that mocked the Richmond Standard, an online "newspaper" that is operated by Chevron's public relations firm and covers news in the city of Richmond where Chevron operates a large refinery. The publication has been criticized for being little more than a promotional newsletter for the multinational corporation, which has been widely criticized for a refinery explosion in 2012 that sent 15,000 people to the hospital complaining of respiratory problems. Chevron later pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor criminal charges and paid $2 million in fines related to the explosion.
In the Amazon Watch version of the newspaper were stories that mocked Chevron. Under a sub banner that reads "What Oakland's Chamber of Commerce needs to know about the tactics of its "presenting sponsor," was a story with the headline "Chevron creates its own news outlet for a poor city that it pollutes."
Only one woman had noticed the flyers and asked Paz y Miño for one, which he gave her. But about twenty minutes after he arrived, several security guards came up to him and asked him to leave. According to Paz y Miño, the guards said that "Amazon Watch was not welcomed at the event." When Paz y Miño refused to leave, three security guards physically escorted him from the building.
Paz y Miño said he was convinced Chevron was behind his ejection and was not surprised by the action. "Chevron has been out to crush free speech in relation to its policies for years and now apparently opposing views are not even allowed in the room," Paz y Miño said. "It's outrageous. They want to crush any kind of open discussion or debate about their actions here or anywhere in the world."
Dan Quigley, the director of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce issued a written statement about the incident claiming that Paz y Miño was forced to leave as a preemptive action. "We're sorry to have asked a paying attendee to leave, and have reimbursed the cost of his ticket," the statement read. "Previous actions by Amazon Watch in other venues and their social media messaging in advance of our conference raised out concern that this attendee (an employee of Amazon Watch) intended to be disruptive."
Paz y Miño scoffed at the idea that he had any intention of being disruptive. "There was absolutely nothing that I did, nor was there anything in our social media, that suggested Amazon Watch intended to be disruptive," Paz y Miño said, adding that he has yet to receive reimbursement for his ticket.