Greenpeace activists scale D.C. crane within sight of White House, hang huge ‘RESIST’ banner
The Japan Times AP, AFP-JIJI Jan 26, 2017
Greenpeace activists hold an anti-Trump protest as they display a banner reading 'RESIST' from a construction crane near the White House in downtown Washington Wednesday. | REUTERS
WASHINGTON – The morning after President Donald Trump issued orders to delay environmental rules and restart pipeline projects, Greenpeace protesters climbed a 270-foot construction crane blocks from the White House and unfurled a massive orange and yellow banner with the word, “RESIST.”
A spokesman for the environmental group, Travis Nichols, said the protesters are encouraging resistance to Trump and his agenda. A Greenpeace statement said the demonstration is “calling for those who want to resist Trump’s attacks on environmental, social, economic, and educational justice to contribute to a better America.”
Police closed three city blocks to traffic around the site Wednesday morning, but officers on the scene appeared to be doing little more than monitoring the activists, who were secured with ropes and harnesses as they hung from the crane.
Capt. Robert Glover of the Metropolitan Police Department’s special operations division told reporters that seven people were atop the structure.
“Time is on our side,” Glover said. “Safety is our foremost mission this morning.”
John Evans, 46, a carpenter who works on the construction site — previously home to The Washington Post — said the protesters must have arrived before workers showed up at 5 a.m.
“We didn’t see them climb up,” he said.
Evans said the protesters were clearly experienced, noting that they were moving their legs and shifting positions to maintain their blood circulation.
“Look how organized they are. They have the same equipment that I use every day,” he said. “They’re professionals. Amateurs couldn’t stay up there that long.”
The protest comes a day after Trump signed orders intended to restart construction of two oil pipelines, the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL. Former President Barack Obama halted the Keystone XL pipeline in 2015 and the Army Corps of Engineers blocked the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline in December after months of protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which gets drinking water from a reservoir in the pipeline’s path.
Also on Tuesday, Trump’s administration moved to delay implementation of at least 30 environmental rules and froze new Environmental Protection Agency contracts and grant awards.
Police said on Twitter that the protesters’ actions were “extremely dangerous and unlawful.” Glover said police would consult with prosecutors about appropriate charges.
A few dozen people were standing outside the site, taking photos, but many just paused briefly before moving on.
David Presgraves, 27, and Victoria Oms, 26, who work nearby in nonprofit communications, said they agreed with the protesters’ message. They both participated in the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday.
“The pipelines have got to stop,” Presgraves said. “There’s no respect for the native people, no respect for the environment.”
The environmental group said on its Facebook page that the gesture targets what it called Trump’s climate denial, racism, misogyny, homophobia and bigotry.
Seven activists clambered up the crane and hung from it the 70-foot by 35-foot (20 meter by 10 meter) banner with “Resist” in black against a yellow and orange background.
As of midmorning, two activists were dangling from the crane by cables. Pedestrians gathered below to watch, some shouting in support of the protest.
The stretch of Washington’s 15th Street where the crane is located was closed to traffic.
The banner was visible from the White House residence.
“People in this country are ready to resist and rise up in ways they have never done before,” said Greenpeace Inc. Board Chair Karen Topakian.
“While Trump’s disdain and disrespect for our democratic institutions scare me, I am so inspired by the multigenerational movement of progress that is growing in every state. Greenpeace has used nonviolence to resist tyrannical bullies since 1971, and we’re not going to stop now,” Topakian added.
“The sun has risen this morning on a new America, but it isn’t Donald Trump’s,” said Pearl Robinson, one of the activists who unfurled the banner.
“I fear not only the policies of the incoming administration, but also the people emboldened by this election to commit acts of violence and hate. Now is the time to resist,” Robinson said.