Reposted from Eye on the Amazon
First we're told that money = speech, now we're told speaking out is against the law. If you're not worried about what Donny Rico is talking about, you "damn well should be!"
Do you care about reining in corporate power and calling out injustice? Your very rights as a citizen? Watch and share the latest in the Adventures of Donny Rico series by Pulitzer winner Mark Fiore, unraveling the tale of Chevron's grotesque abuse of the legal system to fabricate a fraud case against Ecuadorian victims and their lawyers. While this case is under appeal and likely to be overturned, it's been destructive to our work to protect the environment and to challenge corporate misdeeds.
Corporate power in America is at an all-time high. The Citizens United decision equating money with speech is a threat to the very foundation of our democracy. And now, thanks to Chevron's actions and a dangerous decision by a federal judge, corporations can also criminalize YOUR speech.
Global challenges like the climate change crisis are already being felt around this planet that we share, and our most powerful tool as a caring community is our collective voice. Yet speaking out about making real and lasting change means, among other things, confronting bad actors in the energy industry. U.S. citizens rely on the constitutional right to call out corporate crimes and to pressure them with legal and grassroots actions. But how will shareholders know about activities harming the community and environment if actions to tell them are criminalized and activists intimidated?
When Chevron launched its vicious retaliation against Ecuadorian communities, their lawyers and allies, they also included the environmental community. Having 60 law firms and millions to spend, they came up with a nefarious method to strike at us. And rather than suing us head on – which would have opened THEIR files to discovery – they tagged us as "co-conspirators" in their RICO action and tried to get the court to force us to turn over ALL of our internal information about their environmental disaster in Ecuador and the campaign to force them to clean it up. Had we not received the excellent pro-bono services of Earthrights International, we would not have been able to fight for over a year to prevent this from happening and to ultimately prevail.
Yet Chevron still got a lot of what it wanted. They tied us up, affected our image and may well have scared away much needed support for our work. You and your organization could easily be next. Pro-corporate advocates like the Americans for Tort Reform have called this the "new playbook to go after corporate gadflies."
The Donny Rico series from Pulitzer winner Mark Fiore tells the tale in five short animations of how Chevron abused the legal system to fabricate a fraud case against the Ecuadorians and their lawyers. This case is under appeal and likely to be overturned. Regardless, this has done enormous damage to our work to protect the environment and to challenge corporate misdeeds. As the brief filed for the appeal by Amazon Watch, Amnesty International, and 15 other human rights and environmental NGOs states:
"In essence, this case is an effort by Chevron to retaliate against Ecuadorian villagers, their lawyers, and their supporters for suing, bringing public pressure, and petitioning government agencies to hold Chevron accountable for violations of human rights. The district court's decision below, if allowed to stand, poses a severe threat to the rights to expression, association, political participation, and access to courts guaranteed by the First Amendment. If the vaguely defined scope and heavy penalties of RICO – enacted to support law enforcement efforts against organized crime syndicates – may be wielded by private parties against public interest groups and activists who engage in First Amendment-protected activities to seek to hold those private parties accountable, democracy itself is threatened."
When Amazon Watch issues a press release, holds a demonstration, or even puts out a "Donny Rico" animation to educate the public about Chevron's environmental crimes in Ecuador, Chevron charges that we're acting illegally. All this despite our independent knowledge of their acts in Ecuador and over a decade of experience on the ground with the affected communities. Not to mention the recent and damning secret videos we released thanks to a Chevron whistleblower (did you see and share that?!).
Donny Rico is a voice for us, something everyone who cares about reining in corporate power and calling out injustice must watch and share. Public awareness of this must grow if we are to defend our right to free speech and implement reforms. Hundreds of thousands of messages have already been sent to members of the U.S. Senate asking for their help in stopping this. Please watch and share the Adventures of Donny Rico series and take action today!
I work as the Director of Outreach and Online Strategy at Amazon Watch. The views expressed in this column are mine alone. Amazon Watch is proud to accompany the Ecuadorian communities affected by Chevron's deliberate contamination in the Amazon for over a decade. During the course of our lengthy campaign, Amazon Watch has also allied with the legal team responsible for one of the most important environmental victories in history by achieving a $9.5 billion judgement against Chevron affirmed by the Supreme Court of Ecuador in a 222-page decision that meticulously documents the company's environmental crimes, fraud, bribery, and subterfuge during the long eight-year trial.