Progressive Groups “weigh the evidence” at City Hall
Cambridge City Hall – Activists representing peace, the environment, labor and human rights climbed a giant ‘scale of justice’ at 5:30pm on Tuesday, September 26th, 2006 to celebrate Cambridge’s unanimous passage of the ‘Justice for Bhopal’ resolution. The legislation asks the City to take shareholder and purchasing action against Dow Chemical until the company faces its responsibilities to the Bhopal Chemical Disaster survivors.
Several activists mounted a seesaw-like “scale of justice” atop a “toxic waste barrel” at the Cambridge City Hall this evening, stranding the “Dow Chemical Grim Reaper” in the air, waving a scythe around angrily.
Dow Chemical is the company activists say is responsible for clean up and medical care for the half million survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Chemical Disaster. Supporters of the Resolution say it will hold the corporation accountable for its human rights violations in Bhopal, India, as well as protect Cambridge residents from some of Dow’s toxic products. Councilor Henrietta Davis, Councilor Marjorie Decker and Vice Mayor Tim Toomey sponsored the resolution which was strongly supported by local labor, peace and justice groups.
Harvard St. resident Namarata Bhasin commented, “Ten to 15 people are dying each month in Bhopal, yet Dow Chemical continues to avoid responsibility. These poisons did not come from nowhere, we cannot let them continue to get away with murder.”
“This resolution is the strongest action Cambridge can take to hold a corporate criminal accountable. We do not ever want a disaster like Bhopal to occur again. This kind of lawlessness cannot be tolerated,” Coalition for Justice in Bhopal member Aquene Freechild said, dressed in white to represent the peace movement resolution backers.
The resolution asks the Cambridge Retirement Board to use their ~12,000 shares in Dow to co-file shareholder resolutions regarding Bhopal and to divest of Dow bonds until Dow addresses the survivor’s demands. It also requests a report of what Dow products the city buys and options for substitution.
“People concerned with how our increasingly globalized economy develops, should be thrilled about this policy,” said Nate Stell from local Amnesty International Group 133. “Allowing Dow Chemical to act with impunity sets a very dangerous precedent in international commerce with respect to human rights. It’s important to that we let Dow and other would-be offenders know that we will not stand for these kinds of abuses.”
Harvard student Kaveri Rajaraman said, “Dow Chemical continues to violate safety standards, and the victims of Dow in the US and abroad continue to mount. This resolution will push for clean up of the toxic contamination in Bhopal and hold Dow to better safety standards.”
The 1984 Union Carbide Chemical Disaster in Bhopal, India has left more than 20,000 people dead in the past 22 years. Union Carbide, bought by Dow Chemical in 2001, has refused to face manslaughter charges in Bhopal or to clean up the site that has poisoned the drinking water for 20,000 people according to Amnesty International.
Endorsing Organizations Include: Activate South Asia (Harvard) – Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia – Amnesty International Groups 133 & 563 (Somerville & Cambridge) – Area 4 Coalition – Association for India’s Development -Boston Mayday Coalition (labor) – Cambridge United for Justice with Peace – Clean Water Action (Mass.) – Dollarsandsense.org – Environmental Health Fund – Groundwork USA – Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice – Harvard Law School Advocates for Human Rights Environmental Group – Healthy Building Network – Mass Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health – Mass. Jobs with Justice – South Asia Center – Stop the Wars Coalition – Student Labor Action Movement
We had a group of 20 supporters there all dressed in red and wearing Bhopal buttons in a show of solidarity although we asked only 5 of these people to speak in session. In addition, we had 20 local groups endorsing the campaign. In open session, Cambridge residents who had come to speak about issues different from Bhopal were moved by the issue and added their support before they made their own comments.