Massive protest at BP Whiting refinery near Chicago

May 16, 2016 12:32 PM

Today, more than 1,000 residents and 70 partner organizations from around the Midwest region protested at BP Whiting Refinery, demanding that hazardous fossil fuels stay in the ground and that the Midwest Region accelerate a just transition to 100% renewable energy.

After marching two miles amid the stench of tar and sulphur permeating nearby neighborhoods, 41 of the protesters sat in a circle outside BP’s gates and were arrested by police in riot gear, and released shortly after. This was one of  largest mass arrests related to environmental issues and extractive fossil fuel industries in Indiana’s history.

This escalated action took place in coordination with peaceful mobilizations across six continents under the global platform Break Free, in which ordinary people targeted prominent fossil fuels projects in the name of climate justice.

BP Whiting Refinery, which has the capacity to process more than 400,000 barrels per day of crude oil, has a history of putting profits before people. From piling up petroleum waste that pollutes the air of nearby residents, to the 2014 spill of more than 1,600 gallons of oil and tar sands into Lake Michigan – the surrounding region’s source of drinking water – the devastation inflicted by the refinery is felt throughout the Midwest. Enbridge pipelines, which transport tar sands from Alberta, Canada, through Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois to the BP Whiting Refinery, have torn through indigenous lands and in 2010, spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil and tar sands into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River - the largest inland oil spill in the U.S.

The action included a series of speakers and was attended by prominent supporters of the movement to break free from fossil fuels, including renowned environmentalist, co-founder of, Bill McKibben; award-winning musician, actor, and spoken word artist, Malik Yusef; Honor the Earth national campaigns director and Native American advisor to Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Tara Houska; Blacks in Green (BIG) founder, Naomi Davis; and many more.

More than 1,000  people came out to Whiting Lakefront Park for a mass action to break free from fossil fuels and call for the just transition to renewable energy. A coalition of more than 70 organizations also supported and took part in the action, including 350 affiliates, Food & Water Watch, Blacks in Green (BIG), Black Lives Matter - Gary, and the Chicago Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke (please see below for full list of partner organizations).

This mobilization happened as a part of Break Free From Fossil Fuels, a global wave of peaceful direct actions throughout the month of May. Tens of thousands of people are confronting the world’s most dangerous fossil fuel projects and demanding the rapid, just transition to a clean energy economy. Major actions are happening  in the U.S., Germany, Nigeria, Brazil, Philippines, Australia and more.

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