Hundreds tear down fences, break into Chevron site in Romania
December 7, 2013
Hundreds of protesters have broken into a Chevron site after the US oil giant resumed its search for shale gas in northeast Romania. RT’s Lucy Kafanov reports from the scene, where clashes ensued as riot police started streaming in.
Some 400 people gathered on Saturday in the village of Pungesti, according to local media.
RT’s Lucy Kafanov reports that the demonstration kicked off quite peacefully with the protesters chanting “Chevron go home.”
“The situation then escalated. Some people had run across the road towards the Chevron property, there was a bit of a commotion, and we saw the protesters run into the property; the surrounding perimeter fences were taken down,” Kafanov reports. Local media said people were able to tear down fences to 20 acres of land owned by the company.
Riot police officers were called into the area, which made the situation “very heated” as clashes between the demonstrators and the police ensued.
“We did see some demonstrators injured, as well as police officers injured. They were taken away in medical vans. We also saw probably about four or five arrests, possibly more, we’re still not confirmed on the numbers,” Kafanov says.
Following the incident, the US company later announced it was suspending activities in the area. “Chevron confirms the suspension today…due to the activities of protesters,” Chevron said in a statement.
The US energy giant has been persistent in conducting its shale gas exploration activities, and less than a week ago, riot police brutally removed a horde of villagers who had been camping out at the site protesting the company’s plan.
The site in Pungesti has been the subject of ongoing controversy. The village is believed to be sitting upon vast reserves of the natural resource.
The demonstrators also demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, according to AFP. Ponta became a strong supporter of the energy source, despite apparent opposition prior to his election.
But protesters and environmentalists fear that the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” would be disastrous for the local environment. They say that pumping water and chemicals at high pressure into deep rock formations to free oil or gas could contaminate groundwater.
In October, Chevron decided to suspend its drilling plans. To prevent Chevron from resuming the drilling, Pungesti villagers set up a camp in a privately-owned field next to the site where the well was planned to be installed.
The camp has been the scene of demonstrations for over a month and a half in total, with clashes taking place between police officers and protesters the previous week. Outraged participants were as old as 67, according to Kafanov. “There is this very tense climate, and people have a lot of anger…for what’s going on here,” said Kafanov.