OAKLAND — As President Barack Obama met with BP officials Wednesday about the still-bubbling crude leak in the Gulf of Mexico, eight people stood around a mock oil spill outside a BP-owned ARCO station in Oakland, calling for an end to offshore drilling and encouraging passing motorists in fossil-fueled cars to break their dependency on oil.
The Oakland "spill" on the sidewalk at San Pablo Avenue and 34th Street — made from sheets of ripped-up black trash bags — was far less harmful to the environment than the massive leak in the Gulf, although some bright-yellow stuffed-animal ducks were clearly in distress.
"We covered them in chocolate syrup to simulate oil," said Kate Kelley, director of the local chapter of the Sierra Club, which sponsored the protest. "It's a lot tastier than the real oil spill."
Though Kelley joked about the chocolate topping, the group's purpose was serious. Protesters waved signs that read, "Move Beyond Oil," "Basta con fossil fuels" ("Enough with fossil fuels") and "BP is a Corporate Climate Criminal," hoping to send a message to the White House to end offshore drilling.
"We are leveraging this opportunity to show Obama that we need to move forward beyond oil," said Holli Bert, a Sierra Club community organizer. "We can do our part by moving toward green living and environmental consciousness. We can bike and use hybrid cars, anything to move away from oil as much as possible."
Sierra Club members chose the ARCO station as a protest site because ARCO is a subsidiary of UK-based BP. Several motorists gassing up at the station were unaware of the BP connection.
"BP owns ARCO?" one man asked. "Guess that means I'm not going to ARCO stations anymore."
The protesters did not block the station's entrance, but station owner Brij Vilash Prasad said their presence was affecting his business.
"I have three customers. Usually it is full," he said, adding, "I am not mad they are here. They have a right to protest. BP needs to do something to control the problem."
The Sierra Club is planning a nationwide offshore-drilling protest June 26 called "Hands Across the Sand." Local events will be held at Crissy Field in San Francisco.
"People are hungry for answers right now. They're so distressed about what's happened," Kelley said. "We can't all go to the Gulf to clean birds, but we can do things at home that will keep this from happening in the future. We can change our appetite for oil, changing our personal habits and appetites that are fueling the oil industry."