22 Greenpeace activists face federal charges in Texas bridge protest, officials say

Greenpeace activists say they’re trying to “resist” President Donald Trump. How? By hanging from a bridge in Texas, video shows.

Demonstrators with Greenpeace USA were dangling from Fred Hartman Bridge in Houston on Thursday “to resist Trump and the oil industry for fueling this climate crisis,” the organization said in a tweet.

The 22 environmental activists, ages 20 to 52, have been charged with aiding and abetting obstruction of navigable waters — a misdemeanor, the Department of Justice said in a news release. If convicted the demonstrators could spend a year in federal prison and be required to pay a $2,500 fine.

The activists hanging from the bridge blocked the Houston Ship Channel which the Coast Guard closed to traffic from Light 102A to 104 due to the demonstration, the agency said in a press release. As of 7:30 a.m., three boats had been unable to pass, the release said.

Harris County Sheriff’s Office said they’ were “actively monitoring the situation” along with other public safety agencies in the city, according to a tweet.

Chief Tim Navarre told reporters the 11 people who repelled and 11 tenders planned to stay on the bridge until Friday morning. Ship traffic was expected to be backed up for as long.

“It’s a peaceful group right now,” Navarre said. “What our issues are are the protection and safety of the citizens and the protesters.”

Navarre said protesters would not be immediately removed. He added that if the situation became dangerous, law enforcement would “help” protesters off the bridge.

On Thursday, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office told reporters that the activists would face a number of charges related to obstructing roadways and waterways, KHOU reported.

Officials say earlier in the day a van carrying Greenpeace protesters was involved in a three-car crash on the bridge, KHOU reported. The van was in the northbound lane, blocking traffic, when the driver of another vehicle saw the van “at the last second,” then swerved and slammed on the breaks, ultimately missing the van. That vehicle was rear-ended by a second vehicle, the news outlet reported. It’s unclear if the protesters will face charges for the crash.

The Houston Ship Channel is 52 miles long and home to Port Houston, the largest port on the Gulf Coast, the port says on its website. More than 247 million tons of cargo are transported through the port each year. The port ranks first in U.S. imports as well as export tonnage and routinely sees more foreign waterborne tonnage pass through than any other port in the U.S., the website says.

The demonstration appears to be in preparation for Thursday’s Democratic debate. Greenpeace has been a vocal supporter of the Green New Deal, the Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez-backed resolution proposed in February.

Broadly, the resolution seeks to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonize a number of industries including transportation and industry, Vox reported.

Critics of the Green New Deal have called it too massive an undertaking, preferring instead to focus only on cutting emissions that harm the planet, Politico reported.

“We challenge every candidate on stage tonight to promise to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable if they become president,” Greenpeace said in a tweet.

McClatchy news group has requested comment from Port Houston.

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Dawson covers goings-on across the central region, from breaking to bizarre. She is an MSt candidate at the University of Cambridge and lives in Kansas City.