Greenpeace activists rappel off Houston bridge to protest fossil fuels before Democratic debate

Greenpeace activists rappel off Houston bridge to protest fossil fuels before Democratic debate
© Greenpeace

A group of Greenpeace USA climate activists rappelled off a bridge and closed a portion of the Houston Ship Channel on Thursday, hours before the Democratic primary debate in the city, to protest the use of fossil fuels.

The Houston Chronicle reported that 22 activists were rappelling below the Fred Hartman Bridge, causing a portion of the ship channel to shut down temporarily.

The protest came hours before 10 Democrats running for president are set to take the debate stage.

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"We are in a climate crisis," said Greenpeace activist Valentina Stackl. "And we have to start acting like it. The Democratic leadership will be here and the next president has the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a world without fossil fuels. We need to act today."

The group decided to protest the Houston channel because it is “the largest oil export channel in the country to confront the oil industry.”

According to Port of Houston spokeswoman Lisa Ashley, the location is the busiest channel in the country, surpassing New York-New Jersey, Long Beach, Calif., and Los Angeles.

Ashley added that the channel generates $802 billion in economic value to the United States economy, helping to provide 3.2 million jobs nationwide.

The protest won’t be “devastating” because the schedules will be changed for vessels moving though the the channel, Ashley told the newspaper.

"When you're talking about ships, they are transiting for months, weeks at a time," Ashley said. "There are ebbs and flows in that schedule. A day here or there is already factored into the structure of planning."

She added the port officials "respect the value of free speech, as long as it's peaceful and legal."

Harris County Sheriff's Office chief of law enforcement T. Navarre told the newspaper that the protesters were acting peacefully and would not be forcibly removed.

"If it becomes a health or safety issue, we may be forced to help them," Navarre said. "We don't want to cause unnecessary harm to them. We don't want to create a situation that would cause harm to them or death."

Two lanes on the bridge were blocked, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.