Seven Greenpeace activists have been charged with unlawful assembly, unlawful entry and destruction of property by the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department after climbing the top of a crane on a downtown D.C. construction site early yesterday morning to protest President Donald Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, among other executive actions since he took office Jan. 20.
The protesters hung a 70-foot by 30-foot banner reading “Resist” from the crane, which was visible from the White House, a few blocks away.
The demonstration began at about 4:30 a.m., when the seven activists climbed up the crane. According to the MPD’s Twitter account, police were on the scene by about 6:30 a.m., closing sections of 15th St. and L St. NW for several hours out of safety concerns.
15th St. was reopened at about 8:45 a.m., but the 1500 block of L St. NW, which is directly adjacent to the construction site, remained closed.
The demonstration effectively ended at around 2:00 p.m., when protesters began rolling up and removing the banner as planned. However, protesters were forced to remain atop the crane for over 16 hours, the task of coming down a series of ladders waiting for them.
The climbers finally reached the ground around 10 p.m. and were immediately arrested. They were released Thursday afternoon with an initial status hearin set for Feb. 1.
The activists named a number of Trump’s policies as motivation for the high-profile protest, including environmental issues. In a Greenpeace press release provided to The Hoya, Pearl Robinson, a 26-year old national organizer for Rainforest Action Network, said issues ranging from clean energy to women’s rights prompted the protest.
“We won’t stand rollbacks on all the progress the people have made on women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, the heightened awareness of state-sanctioned violence on black and brown folks and the progress we have made on access to clean and renewable energy — an issue I have personally worked on my entire adult life,” Robinson said.
The demonstration came just one day after Trump signed two executive orders to advance the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
Both projects had previously been halted under the Obama administration after Standing Rock Indian Reservation members began a series of protests over concerns that the pipeline could impact their reservation.
Activist and Greenpeace Inc. Board Chair Karen Topakain said in the press release that the demonstration was intended as a public display of opposition to the Trump administration.
“It is plain that communities and cities across this country are alive with the spirit of resistance, the spirit of speaking out and the spirit of taking action,” Topakain said. “Our goal here today was to display a beacon of that spirit. Now that we’ve done that, it’s time to get to work.”
A statement posted to the MPD’s Twitter account called the protesters’ actions “dangerous and unlawful.”
“A small group of protesters have engaged in dangerous behavior in downtown Washington, D.C. this morning,” the statement reads. “While we respect everyone’s right to protest, today’s actions are extremely dangerous and unlawful. Multiple government resources are being tied up, and unfortunately streets are blocked while first responders try to safely address this matter.”
The protest was featured on social media, including a Facebook live video taken by one of the climbers. The video was posted on the Greenpeace Facebook page, and several activists also tweeted photos of themselves atop the crane with the hashtag #ResistOften.
Spectators and supporters watched and occasionally cheered on the activists throughout the day. One such supporter was Denise Woods, who cheered for part of the day despite not being directly associated with the protest.
“It’s absolutely heroic,” Woods said. “They have courage as vast as the mountains and deep as the seas to be up there right now. And it’s because of their love of the mountains and their love of the seas that they’re risking their lives on behalf of the planet.”
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