Forty Arrested in Sit-Down at BP Refinery – Break Free Midwest

Whiting, IN – Forty arrests were made in a ‘soft’ direct action at British Petroleum’s (BP) largest United States Tar Sands refinery in Whiting, Indiana as part of international actions (Break Free 2016) to break free from fossil fuels.

On May 15th, 2016, over a thousand climate justice and environmental activists took part in the day-long #BreakFreeMidwest.

Unicorn Riot provided livestreaming and live-tweeting coverage through-out the day. Here is a video that encapsulates the day’s action:

Break Free Midwest events started out with a water ceremony, in which communities from all over the nation brought their own water to join into Lake Michigan.

After the water ceremony, we interviewed Raven, Janie, and Andrea, who spoke about why they made the journey to the southern edge of Lake Michigan.

One of the plans of actions during the day was a direct action by kayaktivists, who were going to kayak into Lake Michigan to signify solidarity with other kayaktivists around the globe that are fighting for climate justice against large corporations. A photo op was held on the beachfront where 1,638 gallons of oil was spilled in 2014 from the BP refinery.

Here is an interview with the lead kayaktivist as to why the direct action on the waters did not happen:

There was a press conference that was held at the edge of the Lake featuring many speakers and range of topics that were centered around environmental and climate justice.

Mariah Urueta of Food and Water Watch spoke about Line 5, a half a century old pipeline, in Michigan. Mariah spoke about how the Canadian company Enbridge is illegally operating Line 5 and the dangers of bringing oil through pipelines built over fifty years ago.

Mariah said that

last week, the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, an inter-tribal organization representing all 35 federally recognized tribes in Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa called for an immediate closure of Line 5.” – Mariah U.

She ended her speech by imploring Michigan representatives and Governor Snyder to shut down Line 5 “to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill.


A high-spirited rally took place, starting as the press conference was ending. Again, a wide range of speakers had the chance to speak in the almost two hour rally.

Malik Yusef, legendary spoken word artist, writer (co-writer for 8 of 10 songs Kanye West’s ‘Yeezus’ album), and producer as well as member of the Hip Hop Caucus spoke about divesting from fossil fuels. Malik gave an impassioned speech and performed a spoken word piece (video below).

Bill McKibben, co-founder of, an environmental organization, spoke on the importance of fighting back against corporate polluters. He gave a rundown of all the actions that happened with Break Free 2016 before he spoke about some of the disasters that are happening around Earth due to climate change, including lost islands. Near the end of the speech, Bill gives in to the daunting task of stopping global warming and admits, “we’re not gonna stop global warming, it’s too late for that.

Upon the conclusion of the rally, a march led by members of indigenous frontline communities took off from the Lakefront Park headed towards the BP refinery.

The tightly marshaled march slowly walked around the corridor of the massive BP Whiting refinery. Upon reaching one of the entrances to BP, small rallies occurred with speeches and songs breaking out.

After one of the stops at BP’s gates, a few dozen people went to the front of the march to start their escalation of a non-violent direct action. Hand-in-hand, those willing to risk arrest, led the crowd of around 1,000 past a road block and onto the street leading to the main entrance to the refinery.

Consistent communications between the police liaison of the protest, the commanders of the regional SWAT team on the scene to protect BP, and BP security, allowed for a carefully choreographed scene in front of Gate 15 where 40 climate justice activists were arrested for trespassing.

Watch below to view the full stream of the arrests:

Those arrested were ticketed and released.

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