Greenpeace settles with Texas over Houston Ship Channel protest

Protestors from environmental activist group Greenpeace who suspended themselves from the Fred Hartman Bridge in Houston, Texas, in order to block the Houston Ship Channel, have agreed to settle state criminal charges against them. Greenpeace will pay the full financial cost of the emergency response to the event.

The activists rappelled down from the rail of the bridge on September 12th 2019 intending to block the passage of tankers on the Channel. The intention was to stay for 24 hours, all the way through the Democratic presidential debate that was being held in Houston that night. However, Houston law enforcement was having none of it. The local sheriff’s department lowered deputies from the bridge deck, and they arrested the protesters in mid-air.

The state’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Act had entered into effect 11 days earlier, so the Harris County District Attorney’s Office attempted to indict 31 protesters on felony charges of “disrupting critical energy infrastructure.” A grand jury turned down all 31 felony indictments, but allowed 25 misdemeanour charges of obstruction of a roadway to proceed to a trial.

Those misdemeanour indictments have now been resolved via a negotiated settlement. The protesters have agreed to pay $250 each in court costs, and Greenpeace will reimburse local first responders about $58,000 for the cost of making the arrests.

There are still 22 activists facing federal charges of obstruction of navigable waters, and discussions on settling those charges are under way, Greenpeace told Reuters.