Tag Archives: benicia

Protesters shut down rail lines in Canada – why that’s important here in Benicia

By Roger Straw, February 18, 2020

My U.S. readers might wonder why I cover oil train news from Canada.  Answer: Our Canada neighbors are important – we are of course, a global people.  AND… what happens in production and transport of Canadian tar-sands oil is newsworthy “uprail” news for our west coast states.  Canadian and US ports are lined up for export, and our refineries would love to receive the icky substance by rail.

Vintage yard sign – successful 2016 defeat of Valero’s oil train proposal

My Benicia readers might wonder why I continue to cover oil train news at all – didn’t we successfully defeat Valero’s dirty and dangerous proposal in 2016? Answer: well, Valero is poised to buy our 2020 mayor and council elections.  Who’s to say they won’t try for crude by rail again?  Back in 2014-2016, Valero expected to win approval, and invested heavily in the necessary infrastructure for offloading oil trains.  Last I knew, they stored the heavy equipment offsite here in Benicia’s Industrial Park.  Has it been sold or moved?

IMPORTANT IN TODAY’S INTERNATIONAL NEWS…


Rail Lines Shut Down, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Still on Gidimt’en Land as Miller Meets Tyendinaga Blockaders

The Energy Mix, February 18, 2020, Primary Author Mitchell Beer
Tyendinaga blockade
Tyendinaga blockade | Source: Twitter

Rail lines across most of Canada remained shut down this week, RCMP were still a threatening presence on Gidimt’en land in British Columbia, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller met with Tyendinaga Mohawk protesters, and a flurry of news coverage traced the widening impacts of a blockade triggered by a pipeline company pushing an unwanted natural gas pipeline through unceded Indigenous territory.

Over the weekend, the Tyendinaga blockade of the CN Rail track near Belleville, Ontario continued after the community concluded a day-long meeting with Miller. Blockades or demonstrations were under way near Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec, at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, and on the Prince Edward Island side of the Confederation Bridge, and shut down the Thousand Islands Bridge between Ontario and New York State for 2½ hours. Days earlier, a court injunction barred Wet’suwet’en supporters from continuing their blockade of the B.C. legislature in Victoria.

And in Toronto, a massive march snaked through downtown to the provincial legislature Monday, with Toronto police tweeting that drivers should consider alternate routes after protesters stopped for a time at the busy corner of Bay and College. “When justice fails, block the rails,” demonstrators chanted. “How do you spell racist? R-C-M-P,” they added.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government was committed to “resolving the situation  quickly and peacefully,” while maintaining that the rail disruptions must be settled through dialogue, not police intervention.

“We are not the kind of country where politicians get to tell the police what to do in operational matters,” he told media Friday, while attending a global security conference in Munich. “We are a country that recognizes the right to protest, but we are a country of the rule of law. And we will ensure that everything is done to resolve this through dialogue and constructive outcomes.”

Before his meeting at Tyendinaga began Saturday, Miller said he wasn’t sure he could convince anyone to shut down the blockade, but he was there to open a dialogue.

“This is a situation that is very tense, very volatile, there are some people that have been standing out there for days, so today is a chance to talk and have a real discussion,” he said. “All of Canada is hurting, the economy is slowing down,” and “everyone knows the reports about supply shortages, but we can’t move forward without dialogue, and that’s we’re going to do today.”

Afterwards, based on a recording provided by a meeting participant, CBC reported that Miller had asked the community to suspend the blockade. But that request was undercut by a call from Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Woos (Frank Alec), who told the room the RCMP was still on his community’s territory. “I would suggest to you loud and clear that we want the RCMP out of Gidimt’en territory,” he said.

While the RCMP operation to clear several Indigenous checkpoints was over, the chief said the police were still on the scene and “continued to pose a threat”, CBC said.

“We want them out of there. We don’t want them there. They have a detachment right in the middle of nowhere, in their eyes. But in our eyes, it’s our territory,” he said. “We do our traditions out there. We do our trapping and hunting. They are out there with guns, threatening us.”

“Get the red coats out first, get the blue coats out…then we can maybe have some common discussions,” responded Tyendinaga community member Mario Baptiste.

“Obviously dealing with the context of the issue…it absolutely needs to be widened,” Miller replied.

“Tonight, we made some modest progress by opening up a dialogue with the people standing out there in the cold and doing so for eight or nine days,” Miller told media afterwards. “We talked openly, frankly, painfully at times, and sometimes with humour. There’s a lot more work to be done.”

Miller added that he would share the results of the discussion with Trudeau and the rest of the federal cabinet. “The underlying issues did not arise yesterday,” he said. “They’ve been present in this community for hundreds of years.”

Political scientists Gina Starblanket of the University of Calgary and Joyce Green of the University of Regina underscored that history last Thursday, in a Globe and Mail op ed that declared the death of the reconciliation process between Canada and Indigenous peoples.

“February has seen an explosion of Indigenous and non-Indigenous support for the current political struggle by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters,” they wrote. “Again, we are seeing a ham-handed response of both orders of government, delivered in justificatory talking points to the media and enforced by the RCMP. Once again, we have the police dragging Indigenous peoples off of their lands, in Canada, in the service of the settler state, which is as usual attending to virtually every relevant political interest—except Indigenous ones.”

All of that “despite the rhetoric from federal and some provincial politicians about the need to transform their relationship with Indigenous people—even though that little matter of land theft continues,” they add. “And Canada—in all its structural manifestations—continues its perpetual drive to eliminate Indigenous rights to land and self-determination, treating them as impediments to the national interest.”

News coverage over the last week combined front-line reports on the blockade with stories on the businesses and supply chains disrupted by the national rail shutdown. On Thursday, CBC reported that protests in Belleville and New Hazelton, B.C. had “prompted CN Rail to temporarily shut down parts of its network” as of Tuesday, with the lack of any train movement “crippling the ability to move goods and facilitate trade.” That same day, CN said it was “initiating a progressive and orderly shutdown of its Eastern Canadian network”, a decision that could lead to 6,000 temporary layoffs, according to Teamsters Canada.

“With over 400 trains cancelled during the last week and new protests that emerged at strategic locations on our mainline, we have decided that a progressive shutdown of our Eastern Canadian operations is the responsible approach to take for the safety of our employees and the protesters,” said CN President and CEO J.J. Ruest. “This situation is regrettable…these protests are unrelated to CN’s activities and beyond our control.”

On Wednesday, VIA Rail said it had cancelled 256 passenger trains along its Montreal-Toronto and Toronto-Ottawa routes, affecting 42,100 passengers. A day later, it shut down most operations. “Via Rail has no other option but to cancel all of its services on the network, with the exception of Sudbury-White River (CP Rail) and Churchill-The Pas (Hudson Bay Railway), until further notice,” the company said in a media statement.

The lack of rail access quickly cascaded across the economy, with business leaders raising alarms about the economic impact.

“Every day that it goes on, the damage compounds,” said Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “It is damaging our international reputation as a reliable supplier. It is affecting our supply chains around the world.”

Beatty told CBC the blockades had “severely limited the movement of perishable foods and other consumer items, grain, construction materials, and propane for Quebec and Atlantic Canada,” the national broadcaster said. “The stoppage has also affected the movement of natural resources like timber, aluminum, coal, and oil, while factories and mines may soon face difficult decisions about their ability to continue operations.”

“Every day we hear more and more from companies that either can’t get their parts or ingredients or components to market, or can’t get their products out. It’s beginning to pile up,” added Dennis Darby, president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, whose members typically load about 4,500 rail cars a day. “In today’s modern industrial economy, there aren’t as many big warehouses of stuff as people tend to think. It’s kind of in, out, and sell.”

Derek Nighbor, president and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, said the disruptions had cost his members “millions and millions of dollars” in lost sales, with mills unable to get raw materials or schedule freight cars to ship finished products. Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association, traced a similar impact.

“If the blockade were to lift today, it would have cost the grain industry over $10 million just over the last few days,” he said. “We have farmers who are needing to deliver product. They’re needing to sell it into the handling system so that they can get paid, so that they can pay bills and keep cash flow going on their farms.”

Karl Littler, senior vice president, public affairs at the Retail Council of Canada, listed personal hygiene products, infant formula, cleaning and sanitary products, and fresh food as items that will be in short supply if the blockades continue. “There is an inability to move goods cross country through the various choke points,” he told CBC. “It’s of major concern to retail merchants. It both interrupts the flow of retail-ready goods and hampers the manufacturing process for Canadian manufacturing.”

“Obviously, there are some issues if nothing is being transported by rail,” said Nathalie St-Pierre, president and CEO of the Canadian Propane Association. “They are talking about continuing the dialogue. But at the same time, and from probably everyone’s perspective, you have to lift the blockades. You can have the dialogue, but at this time, I think the point was made.”

But for campaigners supporting the Wet’suwet’en, there is historic irony but no coincidence in a nation-wide protest that targets Canada’s railways.

“It’s very historically significant because the project of colonization, as well as the extinction of the buffalo, was facilitated by the laying down of the Trans Canada railway,” said Nikki Sanchez, a member of the Pipil Maya Nation who was involved with a six-day encampment at the B.C. legislature.

Climate Justice Edmonton organizer Emma Jackson tweeted that this might be the only time she celebrates cancelled trains, noting that the railway was first built to “enable settlers to go and build their lives on Indigenous lands”, making it a fair target for pushback against a pipeline being built without the consent of hereditary chiefs.

“It’s also probably the best tool that a lot of folks have at our disposal, in order to really put pressure on the decision-makers,” Jackson told the Toronto Star, adding that it’s “mind-boggling” that politicians are focusing on the inconvenience resulting from the blockades. “If you’re going to talk about inconvenience, it is very inconvenient that you’re going to be removed from your own land, forcefully at the barrel of a gun.”

Sanchez added that Indigenous communities don’t take the blockades lightly, and they wouldn’t be possible without the support of non-Indigenous Canadian allies. “We have no interest in impacting individuals’ livelihoods,” she said. “We want a Canada that is upheld to justice.”

The Star documents the support for the Wet’suwet’en from many of the passengers affected by the rail shutdown in Ontario.

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    Valero set aside $200,000 in November 2019 to influence Benicia’s 2020 election

    Here we go again – Valero, refinery labor unions and big outside money plan to take over our Benicia elections like they did in 2018.  We (or they) will elect a Mayor and two City Council members.  Will it be another dirty smear campaign?  – R.S.

    Benicia committee receives $200,000 from Valero

    Vallejo Times-Herald, by John Glidden, February 7, 2020

    BENICIA — While many of the active political campaigns in town were quiet during the second half of 2019, a special general purpose recipient committee received $200,000 in cash from the Valero Benicia Refinery, according to contribution forms submitted to the Benicia City Clerk’s Office.

    The committee, Working Families for a Strong Benicia, a Coalition of Labor, Industrial Services Companies, received the donation on Nov. 20. It reported a cash balance of $248,111 at the end of the year.

    The committee was active during the Benicia City Council elections in 2018, raising thousands of dollars from Valero, unions, and businesses. The committee actively supported Vice Mayor Christina Strawbridge and Councilmember Lionel Largaespada, while opposing unsuccessful council candidate Kari Birdseye.

    All open campaign committee were required to submit reports on Jan. 31, 2020 for the period covering July 1 through Dec. 31, 2019.

    Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson reported having a cash balance of $1,277 at the end of 2019, while Strawbridge reported a zero balance after paying herself back $1,500 of a $4,000 loan she gave her committee. She forgave the rest.

    Largaespada said he had a $95 balance as councilmembers Tom Campbell and Steve Young reported no action.

    The Progressive Democrats of Benicia picked up $180 from Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown. The club reported a cash balance of $1,196 on Dec. 31.

    Finally, the Benicia Police Officers’ Association reported no action during the same time period. It ended the year with $4,581 in cash.

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      Sacramento judge: Benicia Suspect in NorCal Rapist case to go to trial

      By Vicki Gonzalez, KCRA TV3, 6:30 PM PST Jan 29, 2020
      Former Benicia resident Roy Charles Waller, suspected NorCal Rapist

      SACRAMENTO, Calif. —A man accused of being the so-called NorCal Rapist was ordered Wednesday to face trial on charges that he assaulted at least nine women in their homes, sometimes for hours.

      Roy Charles Waller is facing dozens of felony charges — including rape and kidnapping — over a 15-year period between 1991 and 2006.

      The judge ruled there was enough evidence presented during the preliminary hearings to try Waller. If convicted, Waller faces up to life in prison.

      The 60-year-old, a former UC Berkeley employee living in Benicia, is facing 46 charges. The charges involve at least nine women across six counties — Sonoma, Contra Costa, Solano, Butte, Yolo and Sacramento.

      Waller was arrested in September 2018, more than a decade after the NorCal Rapist’s most recent crime because of advancements in DNA technology. Those advancements also led to the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo in the East Area Rapist case.

      Prosecutors said DNA from a drinking straw connected Waller to eight of the women — and a connection to the ninth came from a surveillance photo allegedly showing Waller using the woman’s ATM card.

      Prosecutors argue the assaults had a similar M.O. The women were mostly of Asian descent, tied to the bed with their eyes taped shut. The assaults would take place over the course of hours, and the rapist often would caress, kiss and cuddle the bound women.

      He would also steal valuables, like jewelry or an ATM card, before leaving, prosecutors said.

      The focus in court Wednesday was granular. The defense and prosecutors argued over nuances of lesser charges or special circumstances, such as kidnapping and extortion, because laws surrounding the charges were amended over the time period of these crimes.

      “He is innocent unless the DA can prove to 12 citizens of our community that in fact he committed his crimes,” Waller’s attorney Joseph Farina said. “There’s still lots to do in this case. We’re really at the beginning. There is so much discovery, so many police reports, so much evidence.”

      “There is still a lot of work to do,” Farina added. “We’re not prepared to go to trial at this point.”

      Waller pleaded not guilty and is being held on no bail.

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        A Benicia perspective on outbreak of mass shootings – 20 dead in El Paso today

        Hate is a factor, Trump fanning the flames

        By Roger Straw, August 3, 2019

        So today 20 innocent people were gunned down by a white supremacist in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.  Another 26 were seriously injured, some critically.  Earlier this week, two store workers were killed in a Walmart in Mississippi.  And on Sunday this week, another white supremacist gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival near San Jose, California, killing three of us and injuring 15 .

        In just this last week, according to MassShootingTracker.com, 43 were killed and 75 injured in mass shootings.  In 2019, 291 mass shootings have taken place so far – that’s 291 mass shootings in 215 days!  In those 291 horrific events, 335 individuals have been murdered and 1,111 others were injured.

        In May, a gunman killed 13 people at a municipal building in Virginia Beach. The month before, on the last day of Passover in April, a vocal anti-Semite attacked a synagogue in Poway, California, killing one person and injuring three.

        This is a crisis.  President Trump’s racist tweets and actions have added momentum to the white supremacist element in the U.S.  (See NY Times, Why Does Trump Fan the Flames of Race-Based Terrorism?)

        I have documented this trend on a number of occasions – see previous Benicia Independent gun control stories(Also, note archives on local Benicia gun reporting halfway through this article.)

        The most recent shooting in El Paso (below) caught my attention today, and deserves your careful consideration.  What will our leaders DO to stop this!?


        Mass Shooting at El Paso Walmart Leaves 20 Dead

        The gunman “started shooting everyone, aisle by aisle,” an eyewitness says.
        Justin Hamel/The Daily Beast

        EL PASO—A lone gunman killed at least 20 people inside a crowded Walmart on Saturday morning, according to eyewitnesses and officials.

        “A day that would’ve been a normal day for someone to leisurely go shopping, turned into one of the most deadly days in the history of Texas. Lives were taken who should still be with us today. Twenty innocent people from El Paso have lost their lives, and more than two dozen more are injured,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said at an evening press conference.

        At least 22 people were transported to area hospitals, including a 4-month-old girl. At least nine people were in critical condition at Del Sol Medical Center, where three of them were said to be in “life-threatening” condition. The victims there ranged in age from 35 to 82, but no further details were immediately available.

        Police have not yet identified those killed, though Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on Twitter late Saturday that three Mexican nationals were among the 20 people killed.

        Police said one person is in custody and they have ruled out multiple shooters. The suspect has been identified as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius of Texas, according to a senior law-enforcement source. Authorities are investigating a purported manifesto posted online shortly before the attack.

        Justin Hamel/The Daily Beast

        “Right now we have a manifesto from this individual, that indicates to some degree, it has a nexus to potential hate crime,” El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said at a press conference. Allen, who stopped short of naming the suspect, said authorities were still working to “validate” that the manifesto was penned by the alleged gunman.

        More than a thousand people were inside the Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall when the shooting started around 11 a.m. A woman named Karina, who declined to give her last name, said she was driving in the parking lot with her 7-year-old daughter when she saw a white man in his twenties in front of the store’s main entrance, dressed in all black and carrying a long rifle. Karina said she heard what sounded like “balloons popping” and saw the gunman shoot another man at “point-blank” range.

        Then the gunman entered the store, as captured by surveillance footage.

        Miguel Rodriguez said he was shopping for a toy for his 7-year-old son when he heard gunshots and ducked to the ground. He said a person “started shooting everyone, aisle by aisle, with rage.”

        Justin Hamel/The Daily Beast

        Britney, a 19-year-old who declined to give her last name, said she was with her 16-year-old brother and her mother in the store’s underwear aisle when she heard shooting. The family dropped to the ground. Then Britney said she grabbed her mother and brother’s hands and they ran out of the store.

        Dozens of people from inside the mall who were evacuated lined a nearby street. A man carrying a Bible went from group to group, asking people to pray with him.
        Justin Hamel/The Daily Beast

        The El Paso shooting is the latest in a series of deadly attacks on public places. On Monday, a disgruntled employee killed two people in a Walmart store in Mississippi. Last Sunday, a gunman killed three people and injured 15 at the Gilroy Garlic Festival near San Jose, California. In May, a gunman killed 12 people at a municipal building in Virginia Beach. The month before, on the last day of Passover in April, a vocal anti-Semite allegedly attacked a synagogue in Poway, California, killing one person.

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