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UPDATE: Houston Ship Channel Reopens, Protest On Fred Hartman Bridge Ends With 31 Activists Charged

Greenpeace said it was challenging the Democratic candidates participating in Houston’s presidential debate to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable if they become president.

First responders deploy on the Fred Hartman Bridge to assess the situation after Greenpeace activists suspended themselves under the bridge.

Updated on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019 at 3:40 p.m. (Central Time)

The U.S. Coast Guard reopened the Houston Ship Channel Friday after a protest demonstration carried out by Greenpeace activists who suspended themselves for several hours from the Fred Hartman Bridge, near Baytown.

Authorities have charged 31 people with the charges of criminal trespass and obstructing a highway, and obstructing critical infrastructure. Initial reports indicated law enforcement had arrested 23 people.

The protest started early on Thursday. In the evening, firefighters rappelled to the 11 activists who were dangling from the bridge and lowered them to boats below. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said 12 activists serving as spotters on the bridge were also arrested.

The protesters are environmental activists who demanded that the ten Democratic presidential candidates that were visiting Houston to participate in a debate at Texas Southern University committed to holding the fossil fuel industry accountable if they win the election in 2020.

The Port of Houston, located along the ship channel, is home to the largest petrochemical complex in the U.S.

You can watch Sheriff Gonzalez’s media briefing from Thursday night here:

 

You can watch a short video of one of the arrests carried out by Harris County Sheriff’s deputies here:

 

Updated on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 2:27 p.m. (Central Time)

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Thursday law enforcement has control over a demonstration by Greenpeace activists who are dangling from a bridge over the Houston Ship Channel but he is concerned about the possibility they will prolong the protest. The action caused a section of the channel to be shut down.

Earlier on Thursday, the HCSO had said on Twitter the demonstration was expected to last until Friday morning but Gonzalez didn’t confirm it. He said it’s possible the activists are prepared with food and drinks.

“We are working through a number of different contingencies while this protest goes on and, again, our goal is just to resolve it safely,” the sheriff told reporters on the Fred Hartman Bridge, near Baytown.

Gonzalez said there had been a major traffic accident on the bridge in the morning, although he didn’t directly link it to the protest. He recommended that motorists driving northbound on State Highway 146 divert to Highway 225 and then proceed to Beltway 8.

The sheriff said the goal is for the protesters to stop the demonstration and come up but “obviously they are the ones that have put themselves at risk and they are the ones that have to make that decision as well.”

Gonzalez said there are some “spotters” involved in the protest who are coordinating with the activists hanging from the bridge.

Greenpeace said on Twitter one of the goals of their action is to make the ten Democratic presidential candidates that will participate in a debate tonight in Houston to promise they will hold the fossil fuel industry accountable if they win the election in 2020.

“We know it’s a busy political season,” said Gonzalez, “we know there’s a lot of attention on our city right now.”

Greenpeace activists protest against the fossil fuel industry by hanging from the Fred Hartman Bridge over the Houston Ship Channel.

Updated on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 1 p.m. (Central Time)

A portion of the Houston Ship Channel was closed Thursday morning after a group of environmental activists rappelled from the Fred Hartman Bridge, near Baytown, and are dangling to protest against the fossil fuel industry.

The U.S. Coast Guard said the closed portion of the ship channel goes from Light 102A to Light 104.

At 6:30 a.m., the Coast Guard received notification that approximately 11 individuals affiliated with the environmental group Greenpeace were suspended from the Fred Hartman Bridge. 

The Coast Guard said they sent a 29-foot Response Boat to the scene. Deputies with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office have also been deployed.

Greenpeace said on Twitter the protest is to challenge the ten Democratic presidential candidates who will participate in a debate tonight at Texas Southern University “to promise to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable if they become president.”

As of 7:30 a.m., the closure had affected one vessel inbound and two vessels outbound waiting to the pass through that section of the channel, according to the Coast Guard.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said that as of 12 p.m. two northbound lanes on State Highway 146, over the bridge, were closed. He said traffic was moving slowly and recommended to find alternate routes.

HCSO Assistant Chief Tim Navarre said that initially there were no plans to close the bridge completely. He confirmed there were 11 activists dangling from the bridge and said that “if it becomes a health or safety issue we may be forced to help them off.”

“We had no knowledge this was gonna occur,” noted Navarre, adding the Sheriff’s Office is investigating how the activists managed to get on the bridge and orchestrate the protest.

The Sheriff’s Office said the protest is expected to last until Friday morning.

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