Thousands of demonstrators converged on the headquarters of Exxon Corp. in New York Saturday as part of a series of actions planned across the nation and around the globe by environmentalists, protesting the Alaska oil spill and demanding an end to "corporate pollution of the planet."
A throng of more than 2,500 demonstrators gathered at the Exxon Plaza in midtown Manhattan, waving balloons, chanting "Boycott Exxon" and "Life Not Profits" on the 19th anniversary of Earth Day. The protesters carried placards denouncing the company responsible for the worst oil spill in U.S. history."It's fitting that we're here today," Jeremy Rifkin, a rally organizer, told the crowd. "This company in the past few weeks has shown the world a total, utter, unconscionable disregard for the environment in which we live."
On March 24, an Exxon tanker struck a reef near Valdez, Alaska, spilling 10.1 million gallons of crude oil in the environmentally fragile Prince William Sound, fouling an area the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, and killing untold numbers of birds, sea otters and other marine life.
Rifkin said the Earth Day protest was designed to "send a clear message to corporations and government leaders that the public will no longer tolerate corporate pollution of the planet."
The rally, sponsored by the Save the Earth Campaign, a coalition of peace, environmental and other groups, coincided with similar demonstrations held in California, Texas, Kansas, a number of European countries, India and Malaysia, organizers said.
The demonstrators also were protesting against companies that produce CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, and other gases responsible for ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect.
The protesters chanted "No more Exxon! No more spills! They don't pay their cleanup bills!" as they marched across town to the United Nations, where they listened to speakers and a host of singers, including Peter Yarrow of the group Peter, Paul and Mary and Roger McGuinn, formerly of The Byrds.
Among those speaking out against global pollution were former Rep. Bella Abzug, actress Morgan Fairchild and actor Ed Begley Jr.
"We're going to start our conservation effort at the pumps of Exxon," vowed Begley.
"I'm concerned about the children not being able to go out in the sun," McGuinn said.
Abzug let the crowd in a "pledge to the Earth" that went: "I pledge allegiance to the Earth and to the flora and fauna and human life that it supports. I pledge individually to save the air and water and soil."
The young and the old were also on hand to show their support.
Hannah Robinson, 82, of Manhattan, carried a yellow poster that read: "There's no beauty in barren land. Help save Mother Earth."
Eliza Mahoney, 4, stated her reason for coming to the protest succinctly. "They're killing the animals," she said.
Exxon officials could not be reached for comment on the protest.