Dozens of activists blocked the entrances to PG&E’s corporate headquarters in downtown San Francisco on Monday morning, demanding that the utility company do more to protect people from power shutdowns.
Starting around 7 a.m., activists with the Power to Live Coalition blocked entrances at the PG&E headquarters at 77 Beale St. Many of the activists, made up of members of several Bay Area organizations, included disabled people and racial justice advocates.
The action was later followed by a noon rally outside the utility’s headquarters.
In the wake of several fires that have devastated parts of Northern California in recent years, followed by subsequent Public Safety Power Shutoffs, the coalition is demanding that PG&E reinvest its money to ensure life-saving power for the basic needs of communities of color and disabled people.
“People with disabilities, young people who have survived fires in Sonoma County, and black and brown folks have locked down the building, demanding that PG&E can’t go about business as usual. Business as usual has meant people’s lungs, people’s lives, people’s homes being taken,” coalition member Pete Woiwode said.
“We’re demanding that they grab back all the corporate profit that they’ve put in the pockets of corporate hedge funds and put that into protecting and reimbursing people who have lost their livelihoods and their homes, and protecting people with disabilities and communities of color from the coming climate disasters,” Woiwode said.
“Disabled people depend on electrical power for breathing equipment like oxygen tanks and CPAPs; people depend on refrigerators for medication that have to be cold to work,” said Jessica Lehman, a coalition member. “People like myself, I use a powered-wheelchair, so I have to be able to plug it in to be able to get around.”
“It’s not OK that PG&E told people that they should make plans, instead of actually working with people to make plans. They did not provide generators, or hotel vouchers, or make sure people had places to go or keep the power on,” she said.
In addition to demanding that PG&E give back shareholder profits and reinvest them in communities affected by the fires and shutoffs, the coalition is also demanding that Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Public Utilities Commission take action.
“All of that has to change. We need the state, the California Public Utilities Commission to step in and to takeover PG&E to put PG&E back into the hands of the people,” Lehman said.