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.
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.
- 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.
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 http://www.globalexchange.org/BechtelAction to download some resources.