Hundreds of people have gathered in downtown San Francisco’s Financial District today despite the wind and rain to take part in a day of mass action against corporations, banks, and the courts. While people from many different walks of life are joining the actions today, there are a few consistent messages which are being voiced: corporations are not people, money is not speech, and people should come before profit.

Line of people holding US budget banner in front of Bechtel

Since early this morning; a multitude of people, groups, movements, and communities have self-organized and taken action to disrupt business-as-usual at various corporations and banks throughout the financial district. Global Exchange chose Bechtel as a target for today, partnering with our friends from of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Fellowship of Reconciliation, New Priorities Campaign and others, forming the Bechtel Action Group, to protest the waste and corruption of the Bechtel corporation and the ways that it’s power has influenced the nation’s budget priorities.

The action began at 6am this morning when several dozen people successfully blocked the entrance to Bechtel’s San Francisco headquarters. Global Exchange’s Organizing Director Kirsten Moller along with other staff were present for the early morning action which lasted until about 9:30am when people peacefully exited the building. The Carnival of Resistance bus led by Occupy Oakland stopped by Bechtel and there was singing and chanting throughout the morning while a group of people stood in front of Bechtel handing out information to people passing by and holding a 30 foot banner outlining the current US budget and a breakdown of where American tax dollars are being allocated:  59% to military and military contractors, with only 4% going to Education and 6% to Health and Human Services.

Umbrellas painted with 'People before profit' at Bechtel

Why Bechtel?

  • The Bechtel Corporation is one of the largest engineering and construction firms in the world, and the fifth largest privately held firm in the United States.
  • It is one of the world’s leading nuclear engineering and construction firms, providing construction support services for nuclear power plants around the world.
  • Bechtel is one of of the major corporations that has profited from the Iraq War through reconstruction contracts. On April 17 the US Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded a contract worth $680 million to Bechtel Corp.
  •  It builds and manages huge petrochemical, transportation, energy and mining projects worldwide and is one of the largest U.S. military contractors.
  • It is involved in the construction of oil refineries, pipelines and dam construction and built the infrastructure at Hanford, Washington for the secret Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb.
  • Bechtel and its alumni have become an integral part of the U.S. power structure serving as a chair of the Atomic Energy Commission and director of the Central Intelligence Agency; serving  as  Reagan’s Defense Secretary (Caspar Weinberger) and Secretary of State (George Schultz) .
  • Bechtel plays a significant role in the privatization of infrastructure. In Cochabamba, Bolivia they tried to privatize the water system and were thwarted by local and international opposition. Still Bechtel proudly bills itself as “a one-of-a-kind industry leader in infrastructure privatization.

Food Bank of America

Some of the other actions that have unfolded so far have included groups blocking the entrances to major banks including Wells Fargo and Bank of America where organizers set up a ‘Food Bank of America’ distributing fresh, hot food cooked by volunteers, Occupy the Courthouse led by Move to Amend, and street theater actions led by Iraq Veterans Against The War (IVAW) throughout downtown.

At 3pm the Bechtel Action Group will reconvene at Bechtel’s headquarters (50 Beale Street) for a teach-in and at 5pm Occupy Wall Street West will converge on Justin Herman/Bradley Manning Plaza for a massive march down Market Street.

For more information on Bechtel, visit to download some resources.

John Lindsay-Poland, Senator De León and Kirsten Moller at California capitol building in Sacramento

On January 10, 2012  on behalf of Global Exchange I joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Brady campaign in the California Capitol building in Sacramento to provide a support testimony for Senator De León’s Senate Joint Resolution No. 10 that calls for a comprehensive approach to stop the trafficking of illegal weapons and ammunition across the border into Mexico.

The resolution which passed the committee by a majority will be submitted to the full legislature later this spring.

It urges the President and Congress to pursue a comprehensive approach to stem the trafficking of illicit United States firearms and ammunition into Mexico enhancing collaboration among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies by:

  • the allocation of a permanent source of federal funding to sustain local and state law enforcement operations to combat firearms trafficking and other border-related crimes,
  • the redirection of federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and United States Customs and Border Protection resources towards this effort,
  • reenactment of a strong federal assault weapons ban, along with a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines,
  • stronger federal authority to crack down on corrupt gun dealers,
  • extending Brady criminal background checks to all gun sales, including all sales at gun shows to prevent firearms trafficking, and the maintenance of firearm purchase records to help law enforcement track down armed criminals and solve gun crimes.

Here is the statement we made yesterday:

We’ve travelled here today to testify on this measure to control firearms trafficking because we’ve been convinced by our Mexican friends and colleagues that loose regulation of firearms in the U.S. facilitates a massive illegal weapons flow to the South that, in turn, helps fuel a bloody conflict that has resulted in the murder of at least 45,000 Mexicans since the end of 2006.  Sen. DeLeón’s SJR 10 resolution brings needed attention to this too often ignored issue while suggesting practical measures to reduce weapons smuggling.

As SJR 10 documents, Mexico has experienced a terrifying spiral of violence following an escalation of the war for drug prohibition by President Felipe Calderón at the end 2006.  The underlying causes of the war and for the spiking body count are complex and controversial, but there is broad consensus across most sectors in Mexico that easy access to weaponry smuggled from the United States is a major contributing factor to the growing mayhem.

SJR 10 correctly identifies the urgent need for action at the Federal level –by Congress and the President to cooperate in developing comprehensive limits on the trafficking of weapons and ammunition into Mexico.

In 2012 Alianza Civica (Civic Alliance), – traditionally Mexico’s premier election observation and electoral watchdog organization asked Global Exchange and other US human rights organizations to join them in a Mexican led petition campaign that echoes the concerns voiced in SJR 10 in terms of limiting the import of assault weapons to the United States and providing far stricter enforcement powers to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

This campaign against weapons smuggling has been given full and explicit support by Javier Sicilia, the renowned Mexican poet who, along with other victims of Mexico’s violence, is leading a massive peace movement he helped found after his son was murdered — along with six young friends — in March last year.

In recent months, even leaders of this peace movement have been targeted. On November 28th, Nepomuceno Moreno Núñez, a prominent movement activist, was gunned down in his home town of Hermosillo, Sonora in northwestern Mexico.
His offense? Being persistent in seeking justice in the case of his 18 year old son Jorge Mario Moreno León, who was kidnapped and disappeared in July, 2010.

California can send an important message to Washington with the passage of SJR 10.  Please support this important Resolution.