Oil Spill Protest Fills Athens Square Park
Dozens of local residents gathered at Athens Square Park June 8 to protest BP officials’ handling of the massive Gulf Coast oil spill and subsequent cleanup.
Protesters plastered signs throughout the park, including one attached to a statue of Socrates that read, “Blood Is Thicker Than Oil!”
Organizers said they are outraged by BP’s apparent inefficiency in halting the massive oil spill and by the “poor response” by the Obama administration. “This is the 50th day that oil is pouring into the ocean,” organizer Janine Melillo said. “And still, they can’t find a way to cap it.”
Melillo said her fellow organizers are concerned that the oil will eventually make its way up the East Coast to the New York City shoreline, where it would affect dozens of coastal communities.
The Astoria rally was one of many that took place simultaneously across the nation on June 8. The demonstrations marked the 50th day since an explosion on the semi-submersible deep water drilling rig “Deepwater Horizon” killed 11 workers and sent massive plumes of oil into waters off the Gulf Coast.
City Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. has voiced his anger over the apparent failure by the Obama administration to respond to the environmental disaster.
“We keep hearing we are going to make BP pay, but that’s after they have ruined our environment,” Vallone said. “For the first month I was stunned that I didn’t hear anyone questioning the lack of response. I thought I was missing something.”
Melillo said she and other organizers are planning to meet this week with Congressmember Joseph Crowley to discuss how the oil spill became an environmental disaster and a symbol of governmental mismanagement.
“I am not interested in words from President Obama,” Melillo said. “I’m interested in action.”
Melillo said the American public is likewise interested in some kind of action on the part of the federal government to force BP to speed up the cleanup. “Many people would like to see Obama send BP Chief Executive [Officer] Tony Hayward to jail, while others would like Obama to join him there,” Melillo said.
Scientists and oil industry specialists have determined that the Gulf oil spill could continue to affect the environment for years to come. The gushing oil is being called the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, worse by far than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.
“It should not take a disaster of this magnitude to alert both the government and the public to the fact that the government is basically helpless in this situation,” Vallone declared. “It seems like this is actually news to the government itself.”