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Greenpeace activists suspend themselves from a Houston bridge hours before the debate

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 9/13/2019 By Nelson Oliveira / New York Daily News
a long bridge over some water © Provided by PG Publishing Co., Inc.

Several environmental activists rappelled off a major Houston-area bridge on Thursday and plan to be hanging from it for at least 24 hours to protest the fossil fuel industry.

The audacious demonstration by Greenpeace USA began just hours before the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates were scheduled to meet for their third primary debate at Texas Southern University in Houston.

"We challenge every candidate on stage tonight to promise to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable if they become president," the nonprofit group tweeted Thursday morning.

Some of the protesters first tried to block traffic at the Fred Hartman Bridge while at least 11 of them dangled from the structure holding colorful banners. The group plans to remain on the bridge until Friday morning, authorities said.

Despite choosing the site and day of the Democratic debate, the activists said the move was intended to "resist" President Donald Trump and "confront the oil industry." They chose this bridge because it's on "the largest oil export channel in the country," according to the group.

The protest forced police to shut down ship traffic in the area and at least two lanes on the bridge to ensure everyone's safety.

Assistant Chief Tim Navarre of the Harris County Sheriff's Office told reporters at a news conference that authorities were monitoring the "extremely dangerous" situation and considering charges against the activists.

He said police would not try to remove them unless they pose a safety or health hazard to themselves or others.

"Right now they're very peaceful and the traffic is moving," Chief Navarre said. "It is an annoyance, but we don't want to create a situation that would cause harm to them or death."

The climbers also appeared to endorse the Green New Deal, a bold environmental plan unveiled by Democratic lawmakers earlier this year. The proposal would push for a major transition into cleaner energy sources.

One of the climbers, Tracye Redd, was tweeting about the plan and his motivations to rappel off the bridge on Thursday.

"While I may be temporarily uncomfortable hanging from the #FredHartman bridge it doesn't compare to the discomfort that (people) face everyday living next to oil refineries especially when oil is valued more than lives," he wrote.

Ryan Patrick, the U.S. attorney for the district, said he was aware of the demonstration and would work with the sheriff's office on possible charges.

Authorities urged drivers to find alternative routes while the protest is underway.


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