Brown’s Last Chance activists arrested at California Capitol sit-in

  • Published on August 23rd, 2018

The California Highway Patrol arrested four activists as they tied themselves to an mock “oil derrick,” sang songs and blocked the driveway of the entrance to the garage at the State Capitol on Monday, August 20. The arrests were the culmination of a “Brown’s Last Chance” day of protest against Governor Jerry Brown’s expansion of offshore and onshore drilling in California.

Brown's Last Chance sit-in against California oil drilling
17-year-old Nalleli Cobo, a Los Angeles resident who was sickened by toxic emissions from the oil drilling site, Atenco, near her home, speaks at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Monday. Photo by Dan Bacher.

By Dan Bacher

The day began with a press conference on the sidewalk of the north steps of the State Capitol, followed by a sit in by over 40 people in front of Brown’s Office inside the State Capitol.

People participating in the sit in sang songs, including “Which side are on you on, Jerry Brown?” They also shouted chants, including “No justice, no peace, no oil relief.”  However, the climate justice advocates weren’t arrested until they blockaded the entrance to the capitol garage, where the legislators, governor’s staff and other officials park.

The protesters, including front line community members who live near California’s fossil fuel production sites, joined leaders and activists from the Brown’s Last Chance campaign to demand that Brown halt new oil and gas drilling in California, establish a 2500 foot human health buffer zone around active production sites, and create a just transition plan to phase out fossil fuels entirely.

The arrests at the Capitol were preceded by the arrests of six young activists two weeks earlier, also protesting Brown’s expansion of oil drilling in the state: Jerry Brown has six youths arrested for sitting in his office and demanding a freeze on fossil fuel drilling

Before he was arrested, Kai Newkirk stated in a Facebook post the reason why he was willing to risk arrest.

“California is on fire. Toxic oil drilling in California is fueling the flames. We can no longer accept Jerry Brown’s cowardice and hypocrisy on climate. It’s time to SIT IN to demand that he STAND UP to Big Oil,” said Newkirk.

17-year-old Nalleli Cobo, a Los Angeles resident who was sickened by toxic emissions from the Atenco oil drilling site near her home, said the Governor has it in his power to issue an executive order to protect communities from oil extraction that state scientists identified as being toxic in 2015.

“In 2011 when I was 9 years old, I suffered from lack of sleep, headaches, stomach pains, body spasms and asthma,” she explained. “After we worked with community members and then Senator Barbara Boxer to shut down the Atentco site, all of these symptoms disappeared in 2013 except that I now have asthma. I still have to use two inhalers and take pills daily.”

“I’m here to remind Governor Brown that clean air is a basic human right that shouldn’t be denied to anyone based on a zip code, age, gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic status,” she said. “As a person who got sick from oil extraction, I work with the STAND-LA coalition and with other groups to eliminate toxic neighborhood oil drilling happening near our homes.”

For more information about Cobo’s battle against Big Oil, go here:…

While Rolling Stone, the New York Times and other media have lauded Brown as a climate leader as he speaks at climate conferences across the globe, Brown’s Last Chance points out that his administration has presided over a big expansion of offshore and onshore oil and gas drilling in California.

His regulators have approved over 21,000 new permits for oil and gas drilling since 2011 when he began his third term as governor.

And while Brown has said he opposes Trump’s proposal to open new federal leases to offshore drilling off the California coast, his administration approved 238 new offshore wells in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties between 2012 and 2016 alone. That’s an increase of 17 percent, according to data released in a report issued by Fractracker Alliance in February 2017. To read the complete report, go to:…(

The activists also said California produces some of the most climate-damaging crude in the world, with no plans  to ramp down extraction. A recent analysis confirmed that continued fossil fuel development is throwing California off track from meeting its own climate goals as well as those enshrined in the Paris agreement.

“Governor Brown isn’t a climate leader, he’s a cancer causer,” said Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, a cancer survivor, who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer a year ago. “Every stage of oil production—from drilling, refining, waste disposal, storage and consumption—exposes people to carcinogens and hormone disruptors that raise the risk of breast and other cancers. Put simply, fossil fuels are fueling cancer.”

“And hundreds of thousands of Californians living near drilling sites, a majority of whom are people of color and low income people, are at the greatest risk,” she said, citing a recent analysis released by the Center for Biological Diversity:…

The state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) approved 21,397 new wells between Jan. 1, 2011 and April 14, 2018. “Of the 16,554 of those wells with available geographic information, 76 percent are located in communities with above-average poverty rates for California, while 67 percent are located in communities of color,” the Center said.

“It takes more than hosting a big climate summit to protect the planet and public health. Now is the time for Governor Brown to walk the talk by taking strong action to prevent climate change and cancer,” Jaggar emphasized.

“Our Governor has focused on false solutions which allow the fossil fuel industry and climate profiteers to continue to destroy what we need to simply exist,”  said Pennie Opal Plant, co-founder of Idle No More SF Bay.  “Instead of protecting the citizens of California and the climate by creating a managed and just transition off of fossil fuels he has allowed the fossil fuel industry to assist in writing bills such as the Cap and Trade bill from last year which allowed refineries to continue to poison communities.”

“I invite the Governor to align his actions with his claim of being a climate leader. True climate leaders stand up to Big Oil and don’t help them continue to profit off of the health of communities like mine and the desecration of the sacred system of life,” Opal Plant stated.

“If you do not stand up now, you are not being a good ancestor,” she concluded.

The Brown’s Last Chance campaign launched in April with a letter demanding that Gov. Brown halt the development of all new dirty fuel projects in California, create a plan to phase out all fossil fuel extraction as quickly as possible and provide support and opportunities for those most impacted by the transition. To date, more than 800 organizations have signed the letter.

Monique Uribe of Mothers Out Front said, “We are low income and immigrants, but we have the right to clean air. Three years ago the state’s scientists released a study that fracking is not compatible with public health. They have the scientific proof — now it’s time to close these operations down.”

“The fact that people in California are risking arrest today for protecting their homes, health and the climate is a travesty,” added Mary Zeiser from Stand.Earth.  “We call upon our Governor, Jerry Brown, ‘this is your last chance to walk your talk on climate leadership and we’re counting on you to do what’s right for the people of California.’”

Background: Brown received $9.8 million from oil and gas cos. and utilities

While Governor Jerry Brown receives accolades for his frequent speeches at climate conferences around the world, he is in reality a recipient of millions of dollars of Big Oil and Big Gas money that has promoted the expansion of offshore and onshore drilling in California in his third and fourth terms as Governor.

Consumer Watchdog’s report, “Brown’s Dirty Hands,” reveals how Brown and his top appointees used the California Democratic Party (CDP) as a “slush fund, sucking in contributions from unpopular energy companies in close proximity, and sometimes on the same day, that his Administration helped those companies in controversial ways.”

“Twenty-six energy companies including Occidental, Chevron, NRG and the state’s three major investor-owned utilities – all with business before the state – donated $9.8 million to Jerry Brown’s campaigns, causes, and initiatives, and to the California Democratic Party since he ran for Governor. Donations were often made within days or weeks of winning favors. The three major investor-owned utilities alone contributed nearly $6 million,” according to the report. “Between 2011 and 2014, the energy companies tracked by Brown’s Dirty Hands donated $4.4 million to the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party gave $4.7 million to Brown’s re-election committee.”

Since Consumer Watchdog’s report was released in 2016, both the California Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) have adopted bans on fossil fuel donations, due to political pressure from Oil Money Out and other organizations:…

However, the DNC later reversed the earlier ban on fossil fuel donations: Oil money out! Tell the DNC not to fuel elections with dirty fossil fuel money

Meanwhile, the oil industry, the most powerful corporate lobby in California, continues to spend millions of dollars on lobbying each Legislative Session and on political campaigns each election season in California. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and Big Oil wield their power in 6 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups: (5) working in collaboration with media; and (6) contributing to non profit organizations: Who Owns California 2018: Big Oil and the Western States Petroleum Association Exposed

Live Stream of protest:

Photos & videos:


About the Author

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.