Philadelphia Residents Protest Proposed Expansion of Fossil Fuel Refinery in Poor Neighborhood

Posted May 11, 2016

MP3 Interview with Maxine McCleary, leader with the Philadelphia community group Action United, conducted by Melinda Tuhus


Ten days of grassroots protest actions all over the world, dubbed "Break Free from Fossil Fuels," May 6 through the 15, was organized by the climate activist group One of the first actions was held on May 7 in Philadelphia, where Phil Rinaldi, the owner of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, or PES, wants to expand a massive oil refinery into a giant "energy hub." The project's goal is to build new pipelines and transport more oil into a residential area of Philadelphia – a low-income neighborhood where residents are mostly people of color.

Two local groups – Action United and Philly Thrive – organized people from throughout Philadelphia, especially those living near the refinery to participate in the protest. The rally began with a very spirited show by a local drill team. Hundreds of people marched a few blocks, where dozens held giant cardboard sunflowers, and occupied an intersection for a quarter-hour to represent the 25 percent of Philadelphia's children who suffer from asthma, to which PES contributes with its toxic pollution. The activists then marched to the gates of the refinery, where some risked arrest by blocking the entrance. Local police opted not to arrest anyone, and demonstrators finished the day at a barbecue.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus participated in the event and afterward spoke with one of the local leaders from Action United, Maxine McCleary. Here, the 74-year-old McCleary talks about why city activists and neighbors oppose the expansion of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery, and the goals of the protest action.

For more information, visit Action United at; Philly Thrive at and on Facebook at

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