A group of marathon runners were kicked out and banned from the Chevron Marathon Expo for displaying material that was critical of the oil company, but one of the runners tells Hair Balls that the group is continuing as planned.
"We are still going to, at least try to, run the race on Sunday. We are completely undeterred," says Briana Cotter, a member of the Rainforest Action Network. "Chevron puts on the marathon so they can pretend like they care about the community, but the reality is that communities all over the world are suffering, and even dying, because of Chevron's behaviors."
The runners from Rainforest Action Network -- the main office is in San Francisco -- are participating in the marathon on behalf of Emergildo Crillo, an Ecuadorean man who they believe is dying, along with his family, from the billions of gallons of toxic sludge that has been allegedly dumped in the rainforest during the last three decades. Chevron is involved in a court battle in Ecuador because of the sludge.
Steven Karpas, the managing director of the Chevron marathon, wasn't immediately available for comment.
The problems started for the Rainforest group earlier today, when it was setting up a booth for the marathon's expo, an event that runs today and tomorrow. "There's a million causes that have tables that are trying to raise money through the marathon, and we thought we were just one of them," Cotter says.
According to Cotter, Karpas came over to the booth and said that "Chevron higher-ups were freaking out," and he told the group it had to leave immediately or be arrested.
"We were very nicely escorted out by police, and all of our things were taken away," Cotter says. (Here's an electronic version of a pamphlet the group planned to hand out.)
When the group races on Sunday -- if they are allowed -- Cotter says the runners plan on wearing t-shirts that say, "I'm running for Emergildo. Ask Chevron why." The group also has about 2,000 stickers, Cotter says, that display a similar message.
"Before we got kicked out, we had talked to a group of high school students and they were really excited, saying, 'We want to wear those human rights stickers. We care about human rights,'" Cotter says. "So they'll be running with the stickers on Sunday."
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The Rainforest Action Network also plans to have supporters -- Houston locals trying to change Chevron, Cotter says -- planted at different points along the marathon route, and they'll be holding 20-foot banners that say things like "Energy shouldn't cost lives."
"So we'll be there, and if [Chevron] continue to suppress our right to free speech, we'll have visible signs to get out our message," Cotter says.
The whole thing could make for an interesting Sunday. Let's just hope it doesn't include tear gas and riot gear.
If Karpas gets back with Hair Balls, we'll be sure to update the story.