BP: “The verdict is guilty!”

BALTIMORE — “Criminal negligence. The verdict is guilty!” That was the message proclaimed by pickets walking near a local BP gas station here June 12 as British Petroleum’s gusher continued to spew 80,000 barrels of crude oil daily into the Gulf of Mexico. There is no end in sight of this nightmare.

Passing motorists honked and waved and one rolled down his window and shouted, “It’s a good thing you’re doing.”

It was one of hundreds of picket lines, rallies and candlelight vigils across the nation against BP in recent days for unleashing the worst “man-made” environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, a preventable disaster that could destroy the habitat of the Gulf for decades, perhaps even a century.

MoveOn.org organized more than 150 candlelight vigils last week including about a dozen along the Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida Gulf Coasts as well as Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Phil Levitt, a MoveOn organizer in West Palm Beach, Fla., told the vigil that Congress must lift the $75 million cap on Big Oil’s liability for environmental disasters. “We don’t want compromise,” he said. “We want the highest liability limit possible…People are losing their jobs.” He warned that the oil plume may be caught up in the Gulf Stream and foul the Atlantic Ocean, beaches and wetlands up the coast as far as the Carolinas.

Dave Schott, a veteran peace and justice activist in Baltimore was holding a placard, “Boycott BP and the Big Six.” He told the World, “It’s outrageous. BP is wrecking the environment and destroying jobs too. The oil is killing the wildlife, killing the fish and the shrimp. Families who have been shrimp fishermen in the Gulf for generations are losing their jobs and their way of life.”

Maria Allwine, a leader of the Green Party of Maryland held a sign “Spill, Baby, Spill.” She took note that former Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, and her tea party supporters no longer chant “Drill, Baby, Drill” adding, “She left the people of Alaska in the lurch. She has nothing to offer the people.” June 12 was set aside as an “International Day of Action against BP” with local protests across the nation and around the world, she said.

The Communist Party of Maryland and the Young Communist League, one of the initiating organizations of the picketline here distributed a statement pointing out that 11 workers died in the April 20—Earth Day— explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig. Two weeks earlier, April 5, 29 coal miners died in the explosion of Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia and on April 2, six workers died in an explosion at Tesoro’s refinery in Anacortes, Washington.

“Those responsible for these preventable disasters should be indicted on charges of criminal negligence, manslaughter,” the statement said.

The 46 workers who died are victims of “profit greed” as oil and coal companies flout health and safety laws, engage in speed-up and corner cutting, “evil fruit of 30 years of Reagan-Bush deregulation.”

The statement points out that then-VP Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton, rejected acoustical shutoff valves for ocean-bottom oil wells on grounds they “cost too much” even though they are standard on North Sea oil wells. “We should not allow…Cheney to slink away to his ‘undisclosed location,” the statement said. “Put the criminals on trial.”

The statement also called on Congress to stop stalling and enact a “green energy” program to convert to wind, solar, and other renewable energy, and hire millions of jobless workers insulating homes, schools and office buildings. “Nationalize BP, Exxon-Mobil, Massey Energy. Operate them in the public interest,” the statement concluded.

Photo Tim Wheeler/PW

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Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler estimates he has written 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper. He lives in Sequim, Wash., in the home he shared with his beloved late wife Joyce Wheeler. His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a kind of history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view.