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Police Arrest Climate Protesters at Texas Port during U.S Presidential Debate

Police have arrested Greenpeace climate protesters who tied themselves to a bridge and closed part of a key oil export waterway for close to 18 hours.  The protesters who dangled over the water led to the closure of a portion of the Houston Ship Channel stretching 85 Kilometers from the entrance in Gulf of Mexico to the Port of Houston. Around twelve people were taken into custody around 5 p.m., Thursday as per reports from the Harris County Sheriff and Greenpeace’s spokesmen office.The remaining 11 who were still attached to one another and dangling by ropes were arrested late on Thursday and early Friday.

The Greenpeace climate protesters specifically timed the event to coincide with the U.S presidential debate in Houston by 10 Democratic White House contenders.  According to one of the protesters Mike Herbert, 36 who was reached by phone while dangled close to 100 feet from the bridge; it seems that they wanted to force the hand of the political hopefuls to address the biggest problem in the room: climate change.

Ryan Schleeter, Greenpeace spokesman said the protesters did not resist arrest by the police. He also added that they are willing to face any charges that were going to be leveled against them. “Although we are prepared to stay for 24 hours, we feel that we have achieved our goal and sent a powerful message,” Schleeter said. On the other hand, Briscoe Cain, a Texas state lawmaker, said the protesters would be the first to be charged under a recently enacted law that makes disrupting critical infrastructure illegal.

During the protest, seven vessel departures and two arrivals were disrupted said Steven Nerheim, director of the Coast Guard Vessel Traffic service for Houston-Galveston. The affected area is near Exxon Mobil Corp’s 560,500- barrel-per-day refinery in Baytown.  This is the fourth largest refinery in the United States and Exxon’s largest in the country. Other refiners that were also affected by the closure include Chevron Corp’s (CVN.N) 112,229-bpd Pasadena, Texas, refinery, LyondellBasell’s (LYB.N) 263,776-bpd Houston refinery, Valero Energy Corp’s (VLO.N) 205,000-bpd Houston refinery and Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s (RDSa.L) 340,000-bpd Deer Park, Texas refinery.

All of these refineries can be able to ship motor fuels using pipeline and most have enough crude on hand to work for seven days. J.J. Plunkett, a port agent for the Houston Pilots Association said the delays caused by the protest could be cleared in a day. The channel had been closed from Light 102A to Light 104 as per reports from the coast guard.  However, ship traffic to Texas City, Texas where there are quite a number of chemical plants was not affected by the closure.

For now, we only have to wait for the case hearings in order to know the fate of the arrested Greenpeace climate protesters. Schleeter said they will know more about the charges in the morning but are glad they were able to pass across the message.


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