Greenpeace protests over Houston Ship Channel



Site of the protest displayed by Greenpeace activists hanging off of the Fred Hartman Bridge

Andrew Stell, Features Editor

While the spectacle of the democratic debate settles, the Houston Ship Channel is only now recovering after the protest on the Fred Hartman Bridge. A total of 22 protesters formed a blockade on the most highly trafficked area in the ship channel. Protesters were hanging for up to 12 hours, stopping about 700 million dollars of revenue influx. Houston Pilots were unable to navigate barges without hitting those repelling off the bridge.

In past protests, Greenpeace has been a leader in fighting the melting of the polar ice caps, as well as the preservation of a family of whales off the coast of Barrow, Alaska, a rescue that attracted the attention of America. This rescue popularized Greenpeace to become one of the most prominent environmental non-profit organizations in the world. Greenpeace’s latest project is popularizing and reversing the effects of climate change, leading to their latest protest, in which 22 representatives rappelled off the side of the Fred Hartman Bridge in Baytown, Texas. Their mission was to stop the shipment of the largest petroleum cargo ship for 24 hours and challenge the participants of the Democratic debate to acknowledge the effects of climate change and state their plan to start preventing further damage to the earth’s atmosphere.

“We challenge every candidate on stage tonight to promise to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable if they become president,” Greenpeace’s statement on Twitter, said.

The group of activists has been charged with a state felony, as well as a misdemeanor charge, but were released on PR bond, meaning no money is required for release. Of the 22 members, 11 were dangling off the bridge, each with a “spotter.” The Baytown police were forced to protect the protesters as it was dangerous to throw them to the mob of Baytown citizens. It quickly turned into a traffic hazard, as Greenpeace brought their own large vans to block the roads on the bridge. This prevented many from getting to their job and some were forced to recover or skip dinner that night. Peaceful protests usually do not affect the well-being of the city around them, bleeding the city of Baytown dry of their revenue for that day and causing a three-vehicle car accident.

“We’re in Houston shutting down the largest oil export channel in the country to resist Trump and the oil industry for fueling this #ClimateCrisis. It’s to end the age of oil. #PeopleVsOil,” Greenpeace, Twitter, said.

While Greenpeace has been often commended for their acts to stand up for the things they believe in, many are penalizing their actions taken to stop this barge from leaving the Houston Ship Channel.

“They stopped 700 million dollars of revenue for Texas that day. They prevented two ships carrying windmill parts to build 20 windmills in Texas that day. They drove there in big vans with a support team wearing a plastic helmet and wearing other plastic gear. They hung for hours in the Texas heat for hours with another person watching over their rope to help it not be cut. This was not a ‘novel idea’ either. They did it in San Francisco for a month. The ships started to go through them after a while there,” Travis Parker, Houston Pilot, said.

The leader of the protest, Brianna Gibson, stated that Greenpeace chose the Fred Hartman Bridge to draw attention to the unfair disadvantages of the surrounding area in East Houston. Though the group is facing 180 days in Harris County Jail, Gibson still believes the protest was worth it, bringing attention to the mission of Greenpeace. Political officials have made it unclear whether the message Greenpeace sends outweighs the poor execution, but other flaws have been brought up such as the choice to use plastic equipment and ropes coated in latex. Shortly before this protest, a new Texas statute came into effect prohibiting protest on critical infrastructure like the Fred Hartman Bridge.

These Greenpeace protestors are the first to be charged with this third-degree felony, bringing many to the conclusion that this protest was much more of a detriment to the economy than a wakeup call for climate change. While most of the dust has settled from this protest, Greenpeace has created a call to action as well as an economic spotlight on the effects of petroleum and gas importation and exportation.