Houston event ousts group critical of race sponsor

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  HOUSTON—A group of human rights advocates with a booth critical of the Chevron Houston Marathon's title sponsor was expelled from the marathon expo Friday for painting the company "in a negative light."

Steven Karpas, the managing director of the Houston Marathon Committee, said runners from Rainforest Action Network were setting up a booth with "very anti-Chevron placards and pamphlets that absolutely painted Chevron in a negative light," so he had them booted from the expo.

Brianna Cayo Cotter, one of the runners with Rainforest Action Network, said the group had no plans to disrupt event. They had pamphlets on contamination they allege Chevron caused in Ecuador and stickers that read, "I'm running for human rights. Ask Chevron why."

The 30,000 runners registered to participate in the 5K, half-marathon and marathon Sunday were expected to attend the two-day expo to pick up race numbers, gear and expo giveaways.

Before the first runners arrived Friday morning, Cotter said the group was escorted by police out of the city-owned convention center with a promise from Karpas that their expo fee would be refunded.

Karpas said he made the decision to kick out the group, and that no request came from Chevron Corp. officials. He said the event would refund the $1,300 booth fee.

"We're not a political event, and we certainly don't appreciate them using our expo to promote their politics," said Karpas. "It's our expo, and we have the right to control access to the expo. We just didn't find their message to be appropriate given the title sponsor."     

The Associated Press
Friday, January 15, 2010

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