The Fight Against Corporate Greed: Steven Donziger's Inspiring Message at Freedom Plaza

Helping Ecuador take on Chevron

In a monumental legal battle against Chevron, attorney Steven Donziger won a 9.5 billion judgment against the oil company for polluting the Ecuadorian rainforest and was later retaliated against. The company spilled millions of gallons of polluted wastewater in the Amazon rainforest, contaminating waterways with toxic chemicals. Donziger and the plaintiffs won the case and were awarded the most significant judgment in an environmental lawsuit. The company appealed the decision, accused the plaintiffs of ghostwriting an expert environmental opinion, and began a years-long campaign against the plaintiffs, attorneys, and the country of Ecuador. 

The oil company hired a private investigator to track Donziger and pursued a relentless smear campaign against him. Then Chevron sued Donziger for 60 million dollars in damages accusing him of extortion and invoking a statute initially created to fight the Mafia. Chevron won the suit and demanded that Donziger turn over his phone and computer to their legal team, which he refused to do, and was charged with criminal contempt of court.  Donziger spent more than 26 months under house arrest with an electric ankle bracelet, was stripped of his passport, and had his bank account frozen. Donziger's story is an excellent example of how billion-dollar companies have the means to influence policies and target those who hold them accountable for their pollution. 

Steven Donziger Speaking at Freedom Plaza in Washington DC

"I'm a lawyer that just came off 993 days of home detention and went to prison for 45 days after helping indigenous peoples take on Chevron and win 9.5 billion dollars. I'm so damn proud of what these communities and the legal team accomplished. I'm proud that they felt so threatened by how we have the power to do what we did," said Donziger

Donziger says, "Our story is similar to what I hear from Hawaii and every speaker today, and I am inspired by your leadership. I've done a lot of environmental work worldwide and have often wondered how we connect these dots? How do we connect Flint, Red Hill, North Carolina, Tuscon, Indiana, Michigan, and California because the reality is that it's everywhere? Polluters will continue to pollute unless we stop them; it's that simple. If they believe they can get away with polluting for zero costs, they will do it."

In his speech, he talks about how the government should actually work as an antidote to corporate power and control to protect us from the polluters, but in recent years, he has seen a failure in the political system where companies have so much money they have essentially bought up all three branches of government including the agency taken to stop them. 

"They don't even think they work for you. They see you as a problem to deal with at the moment. Until we take back our government, organize and mobilize all the communities impacted, they will not stop, and they will engage in blatant corrupt practices to stop advocacy," he exclaims. "When they attack us, it's important that we stand in solidarity to protect each other."  

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Stel Bailey

Stel Bailey, a cancer cluster survivor and environmental health advocate, is a researcher and journalist with more than two decades of multimedia experience, having been published globally.

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