Introduction

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Tar Sands Blockade has been actively organizing a campaign of growing resistance in the Houston neighborhood of Manchester- a destination for the Keystone XL and the tar sands it will carry. The Houston Valero refinery here overlooks the only park in the neighborhood and is just one of a number of petro-chemical corporations surrounding Manchester and dominating the scenery. With 1,3-butadiene levels that have been measured as being 11 times higher than that allowed in toxic waste dumps, this neighborhood is one of the most heavily polluted communities in North America. For most people it is convenient to ignore that this community even exists. What we have recognized here is that voices of dissent are systematically silenced and left out of mainstream dialogue. People in this largely Latino community are being disproportionately exploited for the benefit of multinational corporations, purposefully misinformed, and routinely ignored by federal programs that claim to have intentions to protect them. Mainstream media outlets have continued to ignore our efforts in Houston, including a hunger strike that is now in the middle of its third week. We have endured endless harassment by Valero security and the Houston Police Department, for merely filming interviews in a public park and for walking on public roadways.

are recklessly and ceaselessly committing in communities like Manchester. We are planning an upcoming action in which many people could play crucial roles   in spreading the voices of those who are all-too-often silenced, and providing support for those most affected by the petroleum industry.

Our Goal:

We aim to amplify the voices of those most marginalized, and act as a voice for those who are silenced in the US due to their “legal” status. We are actively working to create solutions to realistically address the needs of this fence-line community, including building grassroots resistance to environmental racism and putting corporations like Valero on display for the egregious violations of human rights they

“Voices of dissent are systematically silenced and left out of mainstream dialogue.”

The Demand:

We are entering a new phase with our actions at Tar Sands Blockade, and are preparing to carry out an action unlike any other we have done before. We recognize that simply erecting blockades will not stop these acts of environmental racism and ecocide, and that fostering communities of resistance is necessary to combat the far-reaching issues caused by natural resource extraction in all of its dangerous and exploitative forms.   On Thursday, December 27th, we will be working together with residents of Manchester and local environmental justice leaders from organizations such as the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) and the Better Future Project to facilitate a demand on Valero. Valero must be transparent and honest about their emissions and violations at the Houston refinery that looms over the neighborhood of Manchester. The people are demanding to know what chemicals are in the air that they breathe, the effects of exposure to these chemicals, and the violations that Valero has committed in order to maintain their illegal operations.

Background
The East End of Houston
"The industrial megaplex that begins on the east side of Houston and continues uninterrupted to the Gulf of Mexico, 50  miles away, is the largest concentration of petroleum refineries, petrochemical companies, and storage structures on Earth." - Alan Weisman, The World Without Us There are over 21,500 permitted emissions points in the Houston area many of which are located within feet of people’s homes. Latino and African American families make up the majority of the population in the east end, and to no surprise the people living in the most affected neighborhoods are often undocumented immigrants and the most traditionally marginalized low-income communities of color.   The Houston neighborhood of Manchester is a textbook example of environmental racism. For most, this community remains out of sight, out of mind, but Tar Sands Blockaders have worked to develop deep bonds and lasting relationships with residents here.  We continue the struggle to amplify

the voices of people living in a neighborhood that is surrounded by not only the Valero refinery, but a trash incinerator, a Rhodia chemical plant, a Goodyear Tire factory, a Citgo refinery (LyondellBassal), a Texas Petro-Chemical Group plant, Westway liquid storage terminals (massive tanks), a car crushing facility, 17 railway crossings, and a major highway that industrial trucks inundate 24 hours a day 365 days a year to and from the Houston Ship Channel.  

"Manchester is ground zero for toxic air pollution in Harris County. The data reflects that."
-Jim Tarr, Texas Air Control Board As mentioned before, levels of 1,3-butadiene in the air in this community have measured at 11 times higher than screening standards for toxic waste dumps. Exposure to 1,3-butadiene causes irritation of the mucous membranes at low levels and in higher levels, neurological effects such as blurred vision, fatigue, headache, and vertigo.  Every person that we have met in Manchester experiences regular headaches, sore throats, persistent coughs, and irritated eyes. Intensive work around the refineries in

this community have led core Tar Sands Blockade organizers to develop daily nosebleeds and constant cluster headaches accompanied by an itching sensation in our throats and an omnipresent burning in our noses.   Long term exposure to 1,3-butadiene results in leukemia and cardiovascular disease.  This chemical has a dramatic effect on developing bodies, and studies have shown that children living within two miles of the Houston Ship Channel have a 56% higher risk for developing childhood leukemia than those living farther than 10 miles away. We have befriended a young mother living less than two blocks away from the Valero refinery whose fifteen year old son developed leukemia at age four and continues the battle against it to this day.   The air in Manchester at any given time has consistently tested positive for these eight known human carcinogens: • Acrolein • Chromium V1 • Diesel Particulates • Formaldehyde • Benzene • Chlorine • Hexamethylene Disocyanate • 1,3-Butadiene

“Theirs is an unending war and Valero has the weapon of destruction.  A popular motto of the unions was that an injury to one is an injury to all. Well, make no mistake, Manchester is being harmed.”    
- Diane Wilson

Actions/Projects:

Lock-downs and blockading:

Diane Wilson is a 4th generation shrimper and a lifelong Texan. She is the Executive Director for the San Antonio Bay Waterkeepers, and a founding member of the following organizations: Code Pink - Women for Peace, the Texas Jail Project, Texas Injured Workers, and Injured Workers National Network. Bob Lindsey is a childhood friend of Diane’s and a lifelong Texan.  He is a US Navy Veteran and the current San Antonio Bay Waterkeeper.   On November 29th the pair locked their necks to industrial tanker trucks outside the Valero refinery in Manchester.   After Bob’s neck was already locked to one of the trucks the driver refused to stop and heed the desperate pleas of members of Code Pink. Tar Sands Blockaders used their bodies to protect Bob’s life. One blockader jumped onto the grill of the truck while another wedged themselves underneath the front wheel. 

Industry trucks were stuck in a stand still and traffic was backed up all the way on to the major highway, one of two ways in and out of Manchester, for over 4 hours while the HPD and Homeland Security swar med in. Residential traffic was not impeded.   Members of the community joined Tar Sands Blockaders & Code Pink in support of Diane and Bob and of their own volition began chanting, “Shut Down Valero, Protect Manchester!” Diane and Bob were both arrested and interrogated for hours before being taken to the Harris County Jail where they endured tortuous and inhumane conditions. Neither Bob nor Diane have been given the adequate opportunity to tell their stories.

through various forms of social media.  Diane’s daughter, Santanna, a mother of infant twins, has recently joined the hunger strike in solidarity. The hunger strikers are demanding transparency from Valero regarding their intentions about bringing tar sands that will be piped into the Manchester community via the Keystone XL pipeline.  They have also made the more aggressive d e m a n d t h a t Va l e r o v a c a t e t h i s neighborhood that they have been poisoning for decades.

Youth Education & Empowerment:

Hunger Strike:

  As of Thursday, December 27th, the

date of our planned action, Diane Wilson & Bob Lindsey will be 29 days into a sustained hunger strike. Their persistence and dedication has fallen on deaf ears with the mainstream media despite our constant press advisories and continuous messaging

In conjunction with T.E.J.A.S. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services), Tar Sands Blockaders have led over 80 Latino high school students on a “Toxic Tour” of Houston’s polluted East End.  On one of the stops along the tour students were brought to the Valero refinery in Manchester where Tar Sands Blockaders led a teach in about the dangerous effects of the

petro-chemical industry, the extraction of tar sands, and the construction of the KXL Pipeline. Blockaders spoke about the importance of direct action and resistance to exploitation. Heavy emphasis was placed on explaining the racist history of the petroleum industry and discussing the social costs.

Free Store:

Because it is our intention to create an atmosphere in which communities of resistance can be fostered, the Tar Sands Blockade has been hosting a free store in Manchester. The free store is set up on the lot of an allied community member where a mother and her three small children live.  A houseless man whose body has become riddled with various cancers finds refuge

there most nights on the back porch. Because Manchester is physically cut off from surrounding neighborhoods by industry on all sides, it has no local access to groceries. Many of the residents simply can’t afford to travel for food, and furthermore many people are not eligible for federal welfare programs. The free store aims to fill a vital need in the community: access to healthy food. The free store is an example of mutual aid and solidarity, not charity.

New Actions:
On Thursday, December 27th, TSB will be facilitating the making of a demand by the community of Manchester on Valero. The free store will coincide with activities for the children including music, face painting, arts & crafts, and piñatas. A large demand will be written on a board and will have the handprints of children and community members stamped onto it with paint. As a group we will proceed just one block over from the free store location to the only park in Manchester sitting in the shadow of the Valero refinery.  The demand will be held by community members, Tar Sands Blockaders, members of TEJAS, Diane Wilson, and Bob Lindsey. A photograph of community members holding the written demand will be taken in front of the smokestacks. A letter further explaining the demand with the photo attached will be hand delivered to the Valero headquarters in San Antonio the following day by members of TSB and Code Pink.   If Valero does not respond to the demand, we are fully prepared to do so ourselves. Over countless hours and many sleepless nights we have combed the depths of the internet and the TCEQ’s (Texas Commission for Environmental Quality) filing cabinets to find and compile extensive research on purposefully hidden and obscure information to provide to Manchester residents:
• • • • What is being emitted by the Houston Valero refinery? What chemicals are known human carcinogens? What are the effects of those chemicals are on human beings? A list of Valero’s most egregious violations of federal laws and acts

tarsandsblockade.org
Houston contacts: Santiago - bowmadera@riseup.net Rue - greencircleas@riseup.net 832.609.7748

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