Chevron protests land five in jail

Kristen Owen, right, protests outside the Chevron building at 1500 Louisiana St., where about 50 activists were on hand to demonstrate against the company's policies at its shareholders meeting today. Click here for more photos from the protest. (Michael Paulsen /Houston Chronicle)

Five protesters were arrested this morning at Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting held at the downtown office on Louisiana Street.
Four men were arrested after they refused to leave the entrance of the building. One woman was escorted out of the shareholder meeting and dragged out of the building for causing a scene.

The protesters, members of a coalition that wrote “The True Cost of Chevron” — an alternative annual report that sites Chevron’s violations — and some local groups, held a press conference yesterday to explain how Chevron’s operations worldwide have had a negative impact on communities.

Coalition members and community leaders from countries such as Ecuador, Nigeria, Angola and Kazakhstan planned to attend Chevron’s annual meeting to present their concerns directly to shareholders and company Chairman John Watson.

When they arrived at the doors, however, they were told that their proxy shareholder forms were invalid.

Mitch Anderson of Amazon Watch, who was one of the men arrested, said he had been in talks with Chevron prior to today about gaining access. Chevron had told him the group’s proxy forms were not valid.

“Chevron has made the process extremely complicated and they are sticking on all kinds of legal caveats to prohibit us from entering,” Anderson said before his arrest. He said all the forms were in order.

But Chevron spokesman Lloyd Avram said a number of the coalition members who tried to get into the meeting did not have valid proxies. This year the rules say that each shareholder can only issue one proxy, he said. In prior years, a shareholder could issue more than one.
Seven members of the coalition were able to enter.

Chevron’s refusal to admit some of the protesters, many of whom had traveled from as far away as Australia and Africa, angered the group of about 80 people, who congregated outside to protest the meeting.

“Let them in!” the group chanted from behind barricades policed by Houston PD and Harris County Sheriff’s officers.

Anderson, his colleague Han Shan, Rev. Ken Davis from Richmond, Calif., and Juan Parras of Houston’s Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, refused to be turned away and sat in front of the entrance in protest. Officers arrested the four men.

Antonia Juhasz, editor of the alternative report, was arrested for disrupting the shareholder meeting. Juhasz refused to stop speaking after her two minutes during the question and answer period were over. She continued to shout toward Watson as the other admitted coalition members chanted, “Chevron lies.”

Stunned shareholders watched in silence as Juhasz refused to stand down while a company official asked her to stop. As the chanting continued, shareholders applauded to drown out the sound. Watson swiftly concluded the meeting.