Houston Chevron Marathon Marred by Denial of Runners’ Free Speech

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Houston, TX – A team that is running for human rights in Ecuador at this Sunday’s Chevron Houston Marathon was just kicked out of the marathon’s Expo by Chevron Marathon Managing Director Steven Karpas. The runners had paid for a table to distribute “I’m Running for Human Rights” stickers and information about Chevron’s refusal to clean up over 18 billion tons of toxic oil sludge they are responsible for in the Ecuadorean rainforest.

At approximately 10 a.m. this morning, Managing Director Steven Karpas told the Rainforest Action Network team, “higher ups at Chevron are freaking out” and threatened to arrest the peaceful runners. Police then ejected the runners from the city-owned and operated building for exercising their right to free speech.

“We are outraged that Chevron would deny marathon participants the right to run for what they believe, in our case, human rights in Ecuador,” said Rainforest Action Network runner Maria Ramos. “It is sad that the Chevron Houston Marathon - which raises awareness and money for many important causes - would deny the rights of participants to appease a corporate sponsor that is clearly ashamed of its human rights record.”

When asked for a reason for their ejection, Steven Karpas told the runners they were being removed for “protest activities.” The Rainforest Action Network team’s objective at the Expo was not to protest, disrupt the Expo or dampen other runners experience at this important race. The runners merely wanted to sit at their table and invite other runners to run with them for human rights.

While in Houston, Rainforest Action Network advocates will run in the race, unveil “Energy Shouldn’t Cost Lives” banners along the race route, distribute “I’m Running for Human Rights” stickers to other runners, and host a free screening of Crude – the critically acclaimed documentary about the crisis in Ecuador – for Chevron employees and the Houston community.

Chevron is currently facing a $27.3 billion pollution judgment against the company in an Ecuadorean court over Chevron’s toxic legacy in the Amazon rainforest. Just yesterday, representatives of Amazonian indigenous groups in Ecuador went to U.S. federal court in New York today to enjoin Chevron from initiating a closed-door international arbitration against Ecuador’s government designed to eliminate the company’s potential $27 billion liability for contaminating a huge swath of rainforest and devastating the local population.

For more information, visit www.changechevron.com

 

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Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org