Protesters Flood Beaver County Courthouse Lawn Protesting Trump’s Shell Cracker Visit

by admin on August 14, 2019

Shell Cracker and Trump protesters rally in rainstorm at Beaver, PA

About 200 protesters rally against Trump policies while he speaks at Shell’s cracker plant 5 miles away

From an Article by Davenport Rae Kurutz, Beaver County Times, August 13, 2019

BEAVER — Linda Stanley remembers playing outside as a child in Ambridge and coming inside with burning nose and lungs. Her parents fluffed it off, saying they couldn’t smell anything.

Decades later, the county’s steel mills have closed, but Stanley believes there’s a bigger threat in play — Shell Chemicals ethane cracker plant.

“That’s when I learned that kids and older people are a barometer for what is happening … Now I want to try to protect the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Stanley, of Economy, as she was standing outside the Beaver County Courthouse on Tuesday protesting the cracker plant. “Shell’s not going to do anybody in Beaver County any favors. What is the benefit for us? We certainly don’t need more plastics.”

Under the bouncing watch of a towering orange baby Donald Trump inflatable holding a cellphone — and his chicken-suit wearing compatriot — about 200 protesters brandished signs decrying the plant and President Donald Trump. The protest was concurrent to Trump’s tour and speech at Shell Chemicals’ $6 billion development in Potter Township, 5 miles from the courthouse.

Trump came to Beaver County on Tuesday to tout economic development, manufacturing and energy production and his administration’s role in supporting them. The visit was initially scheduled for Aug. 8, but was postponed following mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, the prior weekend.

While the majority of the protest was directed at Shell and Trump’s changes to environmental policies, signs and speakers addressed other issues, ranging from gun control to women’s rights and abortion.

Rob Conroy, director of organizing for Cease Fire PA, reminded the crowd of the mass shootings earlier this month and called Trump a child who “fans the flames of white supremacy and racism” during his speech. “Enough, I say, is enough,” Conroy said. “We can do better.”

Numerous protesters had signs to that effect, exclaiming “Hate does not make America great,” “I stand for respect for the environment,” “Dump Trump 2020” and “Silence is compliance.”

Others carried umbrellas adorned with streamers, and a group were covered in plastic bags calling themselves “trash flowing” on the sidewalk.

Not all protesters were from Beaver County — some came from Ohio, and numerous came from Pittsburgh. Wanda Guthrie, of the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh, and friends Terri Supowitz, of Wilkinsburg, and Catherine Gammon, of the Greenfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, said they came because the cracker plant needs to be stopped. While it’s located in Beaver County, it will affect people all throughout the region, they said.

“We really don’t want to have the cracker plant here,” Guthrie said.

“It’s bad enough it will destroy (Beaver County),” Supowitz said. “But it’s going to hurt all of southwestern Pennsylvania.”

And the 600 permanent jobs Shell promises isn’t worth it, they said. “There are other ways to invest in jobs,” Gammon said. “This is not it. It’s shortsighted.”

Terrie Baumgardner, a member the Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community, said she participated in the protest because she wants people to be more aware of the impacts of the cracker plants — including those proposed outside of Pennsylvania. She said she doesn’t want to see the region become a “cancer alley,” a term coined for an area in Louisiana with clusters of industrial plants and corresponding clusters of cancer patients.

“I’d like this area to be a safe haven from the petrochemical industry,” Baumgardner said. “This is not the best thing for our economy.”

Teenage organizer Natalie Leslie, a 16-year-old junior at Blackhawk High School, said she got involved with organizing the protest because people need to understand the lasting effects of what Trump’s policies are doing to the environment.

“I hope this spreads the light of the situation with the cracker plant,” said Leslie, of Chippewa Township. “I’d like to see a lot of younger people involved.”

Across the street, more than a half-dozen teenagers watched the protest. Some wore “Make America Great Again” hats, while one wore a flag featuring Trump depicted as Rambo. One of the young men taunted the protesters using a bullhorn, encouraging them to go home.

As a car drove past, honking as dozens of others had, a teenage girl called out the window “Bernie 2020” as the counter-protesters yelled “Trump 2020″ repeatedly.

Their presence wasn’t planned, said Chris Gordon, a student at Beaver Area High School. “I was passing by here when I saw the balloon of Donald Trump as a baby, and that got me thinking, ‘You know a few years ago when Obama was here, there weren’t any protesters for him,’” said Gordon, 17. “And I was thinking, ‘If they had a giant balloon of Obama, Republicans would be called racist or discriminating against him.’ So I came down to see what they were protesting about.”

Don Houghton quietly and thoughtfully watched the protest from Irvine Park. He was sorting through the information he had, noting that there was more regulations on the cracker plant than any of the steel mills or other industrial plants in the region, simply because it’s newer. While he is a registered Democrat, he said he respects Trump as the president. He doesn’t understand the hatred he hears spewed most days.

“I miss Sept. 12,” he said, referring to the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “Everyone was united. No Democrats, no Republicans, no independents.”

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