Protestors target BP "green" gas station

Demonstrators picketed a British Petroleum gas station in Los Angeles Wednesday, May 12, to demand that the U.S. government seizes the company's assets to pay for clean-up and provide compensation for those affected by the ongoing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Activists chose BP's signature "green" Arco gas station, located at the corner of Olympic Boule-vard and Robertson Boulevard, as the site of their protest.

The "Seize BP" campaign was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition, an anti-war and social jus-tice organization. According to the group, over 10,000 people have signed the Seize BP petition calling for the confiscation and reinvestment of assets.

The demonstration occurred on the second day BP America executives, along with Transocean, Halliburton and Cameron executives, were questioned by a Congressional subcommittee over the Deepwater Horizon oil rig leak. Responsibility was a point of debate amongst company execu-tives during the questioning, which President Obama has since called "finger-pointing" and a "ridiculous spectacle."

Los Angeles Valley College student Abel Gamboa attended the demonstration because of his anger over the Congressional hearings.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "It's their equipment. How can it not be their mess? I mean, we're taught when you make a mess, you clean it up, right?"

SMC Students for Social Justice President, Cameron Quinn, released a statement backing the "Seize BP" campaign.

"I support this demand and further insist that the government use the seized assets to fund a comprehensive energy plan that ends investment in, and subsidies for, fossil fuels and starts building the green energy infrastructure we desperately need," he said. "Our planet, our people, and our politics can no longer bear the odious burden of fossil fuels."

ANSWER organizer Ian Thompson was dismayed by BP's reluctance to answer questions related to compensation. "They said they would pay for everything, but then they hedged," he said. "It comes from an insatiable desire for profits. I think people want to be greener, but I don't think BP does."

The "Seize BP" campaign comes at a time when BP's profits doubled to $6.1 billion in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the same quarter in 2009. The Obama administration has asked Congress for $118 million to assist with clean-up efforts in the Gulf. The White House expects to be reimbursed by BP.

SMC student and ANSWER member Seth Braslow attended the demonstration to demand that BP pay their share of reparations. "There is no reason tax payers should have to pay for the oil spill," he said.

Braslow, a history major, took issue with BP America chairman and president Lamar McKay for qualifing his companies pledge to pay for damages related to the oil leak. McKay told the sub-committee his company would pay only "legitimate" claims, but did not explain exactly what such a claim would be.

"[BP] is in no position to define legitimacy," said Braslow.

ANSWER organizer Cory Esguerra cited BP's profits as an impetus for the campaign. "These companies make billions of dollars in pure profit and you can see how much they are leaving the little guy out," she said.

The gas station was shut down for two hours while activists picketed. Called the "Green Curve" gas station, it features solar panels, a rainwater-catching canopy to irrigate plants, among other eco-friendly aspects.

According to BP's website, the gas station was built to showcase their "commitment to balancing society's need for energy with a responsible approach to the environment." It remains the only gas station of its kind built by the oil company.

The Los Angeles demonstration was part of a nationally coordinated action. Protests against the oil company occurred in several cities, including New York and Washington, D.C.

LA Valley College Students for Global Justice President, Andrea Barrera, attended the picket to give her support to the campaign. She was not surprised by oil-drilling executives' unwillingness to own up to the oil spill.

"They don't want to take responsibility for something that will cost them," she said. "I just want someone to clean up the spill and not put the burden on the tax payer."