BP Disaster

Letter to Feinberg

October 7, 2011

From Art Rocker, state head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference:

As of October 6, 2011, o/a 10:20am, I have had an opportunity to meet with BP’s Ken Feinberg in his Washington, DC office. Feinberg has stated “John Kennedy would turn over in his grave if he knew that I was not paying claims to minorities and excluding people in the Gulf Coast Region.” He went on to discuss “It is imperative that Operation People for Peace receive a grant for the work that they are doing.” I then requested that we do not need a grant for Operation People for Peace, we just need our claims to be paid. Ken Feinberg said “If that is the case, have the lawyer Yehuda Smolar, to call me and we will begin to pay as many of these claims as possible. We must show good intentions. I will begin to put together hundreds of claims to be paid immediately.”

As it stands today, our country is in a pivotal moment of virtual crisis due to the unchecked greed of large corporations and the very rich. We are presently witnessing the many detriments of a system built strictly on unhinged private competition. The pseudo-regulatory measures that exist are overseen by a public constituency that is often indistinguishable from the private circles that they ostensibly monitor. In effect, we have a serious conflict of interest.

This phenomenon is manifesting throughout the financial sector, as those tasked with federal oversight are in many cases picked from the boardrooms of our country’s largest banks. We have also seen this in the case of military spending. The officials in charge of policy making and even weapons purchases are frequently linked directly to the companies which profit from such exchanges. Halliburton is an obvious case in point. Furthermore, only last year this very theme surfaced in the form of an environmental disaster that resulted directly from a failure to implement adequate safety measures and regulations on an entire industry. I am referring to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

As you know we are facing tremendous challenges in lieu of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, which has damaged our shores and coastal economies unlike anything we have ever previously experienced. This spill has been reported as the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history, according to President Obama and former Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist.

Dick Gregory has publicly stated that a movement should occur for BP to not be allowed to sponsor of 2012 Olympics in London, England. The Operation People for Peace is in the process of contacting various alliances toward this issue.

The national leadership team which I represent includes: Dick Gregory (Comedian/Actor and Human rights activist); Dr. E. Faye Williams (Chairperson of National Congress of Black Women); Dr. Bernard LaFayette, Jr.; Chief Jimmy Gardner; and Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Bernard LaFayette, Jr. We encompass numerous minority cities such as: Prichard, Alabama; Tuskegee, Alabama; New Orleans, other cities and it’s outlying suburbs; additionally over 400 churches; many pastors and their over 500,000 parishioners; Indian American Hoteliers; and 10,000 plus claimants.
Operation People for Peace (OPFP) recognizes the magnitude of this disaster and we will continue to use our resources to help those affected by the spill. When large multi-national corporations like BP refuse to implement safety devices, thereby creating a disaster that killed 11 workers and injured 17, did untold damage to wildlife, and threatened the ecology and economy of a fragile region, the result is nothing short of a civil rights and human rights disaster, as well as an ecological one.

BP had a “dead man” trigger but it did not work. Now they must trigger a backup to save generations of businesses and families in the Gulf Coast Region. BP must develop, at this time, a “blowout system” to save people around the Gulf from harmful toxins and establish a multi-billion dollar incubator of funds to provide for the economic losses of people that live and reside in the areas where this oil spill has caused devastation. Our greatest concern is that this incubator of funding would not be inclusive of minorities, whom have been over look continually by the BP claims process, we are requesting the Attorney General look into the criminal aspect of this spill and the human rights violation of this company, BP.

Dr. E Faye Williams the Chairman of National Congress of Black Women said that this delay of claims payments has affected many single mothers and their children in the Gulf coast region. Furthermore, BP has been ignoring many of the heath issues that arose due to this oil spill.

Operation People for Peace (OPFP), organized at the request of Ken Feinberg includes clergymen from across the Gulf Coast Region to work on a project to bring to the fore minorities who were at risk of being excluded from their due claims. Ken Feinberg stated “that most of these claimants do not have tax records and are poor: this should not exclude them from being paid their claims with somewhat minimum documentation and that local Clergy sign off on all of these claims.” OPFP was tasked by Feinberg with targeting poor minority populations which had no viable access to the claims facilities, as these people are often without transportation or media information regarding the nature of the claims process, according to Ken Feinberg with BP. Many of these people had legitimate claims and didn’t even know it- much less how to act upon it. Despite the work that we did within these afflicted areas, according to a format established in advance under Ken Feinberg and BP’s direction, as of today no claims have been paid to any of our claimants. Again, these include: working-poor minorities; churches; pastors; municipalities; small businesses; Indian American Hoteliers; and many others. Ken Feinberg originally recognized the need for this operation, which, in his words the “little people would be affected.” A message Ken Feinberg BP conveyed to hundreds of minorities that had met with him several times.

Rev Al Sharpton stated on the one year anniversary of his radio talk show that he would continue to work with this group OPFP to insure that these claims are paid. He has dedicated his staff on three occasions for a conference call with Ken Feinberg to come up with a solution while this group visit Feinberg’s office, and even to this date Ken Feinberg and BP refuse to recognize the needs of these claimants.

Recently, on September 26, 2011, Ken Feinberg BP requested that OPFP settle our disputes and that he would like for me to develop a program that would served the needs of the underserved and underrepresented in the Gulf Coast Region that have been affected by this oil spill. He went on to state that in the past he had requested that this group receive two million to do the work of serving the needs of this segment of the community, however, I stated that this would not be sufficient for their needs when in fact other agencies have received more and other claimants have received more as reflected in the Washington Post article “Spillionaires.” Ken said that his associate Bill Mulvey would discuss this in more detail with this group. I later spoke to Bill Mulvey and he expressed that our program would work similar to that of Catholic Charities, however focused more toward the needs of minorities in the Gulf Coast Region. However, he fail to mention that Catholic Charities according to BP official, Larry Thomas and others that visit the minorities communities that this group paid vouchers two and three times to the same claimants, but yet recently BP was responsible for funding to be let out to Catholic Charities for over 100million dollars. Bill Mulvey said that this funding had nothing to do with the claimants nor the attorney fees incurred. He stated that claimants are a separate issue this funding would be directed toward benefiting the needs of minorities in order to make the communities whole again. He goes on to say that he felt that we would do a better job in providing the need of any funding we received, but yet to pay the claimants. However we have had a series of phone calls where BP has call our claimants and requested that they do not utilized a lawyer for their claims.

For instance, Bill Mulvey stated “we would provide funds to: businessmen whom had losses due to the spill; other human needs; even feeding people” and generally whatever the needs of the community tasked us with. He went on to say that the more funding we request the more we would need accountability and transparency in our operations. Bill Mulvey stated that he couldn’t place a dollar amount on this project- it could be $3 million, $20 million or $100 million- he does not know. Only the white paper we submitted would determine our needs. He went on to say that Ken Feinberg would submit this to BP for payment.”

This proposal comes once again with promises similar to the number of promises that had been made in the past. The most recent of which was less than four months ago. Bill Mulvey and Ken Feinberg refuse to deal with the issues regarding a $488,000,000.00 proposal that we submitted for our claimants to be paid. This group is the one that still has not made an offer toward paying any claims.

Ken Feinberg has made a series of empty promises to our group and to this day our claimants have not received anything. The indignance and dismay at this fact have left me convicted that we should continue out efforts toward picketing and demonstrating until Feinberg and BP takes active steps toward reconciliation and remediation for claimants. The only way that I see the potential for this project to work is if BP places funding aside for the underserved and underrepresented for claims only. The first business of the day is to pay the claims of the people that are owed- people who have been waiting for over one year. Ken Feinberg and BP have met with this group and lied to them repeatedly as to their claims status. Despite the fact that Ken Feinberg has publicly stated that all the claims are legitimate and are not bogus, he has not paid any of the claimants. We had the opportunity of meeting with him to come up with a claim payment method that he had agreed to do but has never carried out the plan.

Presently, this group has lost all confidence in Kenneth Feinberg and BP with their capacity to effectively and appropriately orchestrate the claims process. He had originally recognized that the GCCF claims process would not be able to reach the very poor minority communities along the Gulf Coast (for reasons enumerated above) and designed a special process in which OPFP would go into the communities along with minority ministers, explain the nature of the claims process to those who congregated in the local churches, and then file and collect the claims. OPFP kept our end of the arrangement yet Feinberg has not honored his. In doing so, he has effectively cornered us into fighting for the communities in need. We have held numerous demonstrations and recurring meetings with the leadership of GCCF and BP. We will continue to do so until progress is made and these poor communities are once again made whole.

In closing, Ken; you speak of BP having “Deep Pockets” in all of your T.V. interviews concerning your pay of $1.4mil per month. All we are asking BP to do is pay the claims of these underserved and underrepresented as you promised. A promise you gave to America, ministers, small businesses and minorities in the Gulf Coast Region. We are not asking for “Deep Pockets” we are only requesting less than a nibble- “1/16” of the $21 billion dollars you and BP say has been allocated for payment of these claimants. As for BP, during our last conversation with Mr. Dudley, the President of BP in London, he requested that this group communicate with Iris Cross. She stated that President Obama is the one that is responsible for our claims, she went on too say that Ken Feinberg doe not work for BP but works directly for the President of the US, and they are responsible for these claims. We still believe that the President of the US was not responsible for the deaths that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, nor the 1.6 million job losses, nor the Spillionaires, nor any of the blame that may be placed on him. We believe that the President Obama and the Attorney General of the US should have an obligation to bring criminal charges against the persons responsible for the deaths of the rig workers, the killing of the ecosystems and all whom are perpetrating fraud and are not paying claimants for their losses. Therefore, we are returning back to see you again, we are going to Houston, Texas and London, England again and continue to ask you to ease the suffering and pain of these claimants you promised one year ago to pay.

May God allow the rays of His Blessing to shine on you and BP and my prayer is that he forgive you and others including myself, and remove all curses upon your families, including my own, for any wrong doing that was perpetrated during this Gulf Coast disaster- if it is God’s will.

Yours truly,

Art Rocker

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