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Why did they do it? Greenpeace protesters who shut Houston Ship Channel charged

PortandTerminal.com, September 15, 2019

Nearly two dozen face federal charges for Greenpeace protest that shut down Houston Ship Channel.

HOUSTON, TX – The protesters who shut down Houston Ship Channel during the Democratic debate on Thursday were released from jail Saturday after pleading not guilty in federal court for their roles in a daylong Greenpeace USA protest of the oil industry.

Each protester was charged with aiding and abetting obstruction of navigable waters and faces up to a year in prison or a $2,500 fine if convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas’ office. The 11 people who repelled from the Fred Hartman Bridge to block shipping traffic and their 11 “spotters” were released Saturday on personal recognizance bonds.

Why did they do it?

Greenpeace said its efforts are to stand up against the oil industry in Texas and said the protesters intended to stay in place for 24 hours to prevent the transportation of oil and gas through the channel.

“Our power is in our ability to make things unworkable. The only weapon we have is our bodies, and we need to tuck them in places so wheels don’t turn.”

Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), American Civil Rights leader

One of the protestors published the following explanation for their actions on Greenpeace’s webpage:

I’m blocking the largest oil export facility in the country today

Brianna Gibson is climber, organizer, and trainer with BYP100 and BlackOUT Collective.

Right now, I sit suspended from the Fred Hartman Bridge in Houston, Texas. This is my attempt to stop the wheels from turning in this extractive economy, even if only for a day. The Fred Hartman Bridge spans the Houston Ship Channel, the largest fossil fuel thoroughfare in the United States, and second-largest in the world. Each day, over 700,000 barrels of oil pass through the Ship Channel, and should the fossil fuel industry have its way, this number will increase to at least 2 million.

A person in an inflatable boat paddles down flooded Highway 610 in the Houston area as rains associated with Hurricane Harvey continue to fall in the area.

The landscape of the area surrounding this area is striking. And not in a good way. There are refineries for miles, with smokestacks consistently emitting plumes of smog into the air, interrupted occasionally only by gas flames that dot the sky like deadly Olympic torches and large storage vats full of any number of hazardous chemicals involved in the production and containment of fossil fuels and plastics products. This is the heart of the fossil fuel industry in the United States.

Globally, we’ve witnessed as storms have gained more strength, fires become more common, and extreme weather upset ecosystems and uproot lives.

Greenpeace USA climbers form a blockade on the Fred Hartman Bridge in Baytown, Texas shutting down the largest fossil fuel thoroughfare in the United States ahead of the third Democratic primary debate in nearby Houston. The climbers are preventing the transport of all oil and gas through the Houston Ship Channel, home to the largest petrochemical complex in the United States. Their action is a call to the countryÕs present and future leaders to imagine a world beyond fossil fuels and embrace a just transition to renewable energy., 8.19.72.dm.

The impacts of what would otherwise resemble a dystopian landscape and economy are all too real for both residents of Houston and the rest of us who call Earth our home. Globally, we’ve witnessed as storms have gained more strength, fires become more common, and extreme weather upset ecosystems and uproot lives. We’ve braced for more frequent and forceful hurricanes, or watched as they have devastated entire homelands, communities, and even islands, as they have in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, New Orleans, and here in Houston. Once the damage is done, we’ve frantically searched for ways to lend aid and help communities rebuild, or we’ve sat by and felt helpless and hopeless, victims of a system that seems to be spiralling out of control, even while millionaires, politicians, and corporations tell us that all is well...

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