Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition led a protest march last Saturday at Roosevelt Road and Wabash Avenue, targeting British Petroleum (BP) in hopes of driving down the high price of gas and energy.

Protestors yelled, “Honk your horn if you want lower prices,” to cars traveling along Roosevelt Road and Wabash. Many motorists readily honked their horns expressing support or gave the “thumbs up.” In a press release, Rev. Jackson noted, “We will challenge BP and the gas and oil industry until prices come down.”

Why this protest?

“Because gas prices are too high. People on fixed incomes are trapped. If their income is fixed, gas prices are rising, fuel prices are rising and medical care is rising. It’s being driven to the graveyard for all practical purposes. Gas prices have risen, fuel prices at home, property taxes and services are going down. It’s unfair, and this is taking place in the face of greed. The companies announced they’ve made $100 billion in profits. One CEO retired with a $300 million [payout]. We know that the greedy are gouging the people, so we have to fight back. We intend to drive the price of gas down to the proper prices [and direct] the windfall prices back to the people.

“We’re going to start doing it more consistently. Today we’re marching in Chicago, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Washington, New York, Atlanta”we’re marching around the country.”

During Rainbow PUSH’s 35th annual conference earlier this month, the issue of gas prices and the campaign against them was addressed in a press release: “While big oil reaps these enormous windfall profits, consumers, especially the poor, cannot afford the price of gas, expected to rise beyond $4 a gallon by Labor Day. Working families, businesses and entire industries like the airlines are going bankrupt. We need a cap on the price of oil and gas.”

Besides British Petroleum, picketing took place Saturday in Los Angeles at an ARCO/BP station and BP/ARCO stations in Atlanta. June 24 was the beginning of a nationwide effort. Joining the Rainbow PUSH Coalition were the National Action Network of New York and other religious, civil rights and community groups.

Protestors discuss the effects of high prices

“I live in the suburban area. I work in the city, so I am literally paying twice as much for gas now. I’m literally paying twice as much to heat my home in the winter. I am the power of attorney for my mother who is a senior, and I also take care of her finances. Were it not for me being in the position to help supplement some of her utility bills, she would be in dire straights right now with her utilities, so it certainly has a ripple effect, and I praise God for giving me the opportunity to be able to meet my obligations. But when I think about senior citizens, when I think about disadvantaged families and how the oil prices have to be affecting them, ’cause they are affecting me, it makes my heart bleed. So enough is enough. Statistics have shown that the richest 1 percent of this nation owns way too much of the wealth. This will give us the opportunity to help distribute some of that wealth more evenly.”

Bonita Parker (CEO, Rainbow PUSH)

“All these issues are tied together. This Iraq War, Katrina”we’re wasting all our money on the Iraq War. They need to be taking care of America first. We cannot form a democracy in Iraq, and we don’t have a democracy in America. So many people are below the poverty level. The other day the Congress would not even raise the minimum wage. That’s ridiculous. Nobody in America should have to work for $5.15 an hour. They haven’t raised it in years and years. It’s time for the American people to stand up and do something about these outrageous gas prices and come out on the street and take back America. That’s what we’re all about.”

Charleston Hendrix