Grand Jury Refuses Felonies For Greenpeace Activists In Houston Oil Industry Protest

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Some days it is quite nice to read the good news, providing a buoyant sigh in the midst of everything else. This week, the good news is that 31 US Greenpeace activists are now free of felony charges that they faced after a peaceful protest in Texas last year. It all started on this day: “700.000 barrels of oil come through the Houston ship channel everyday … except today,” activist Rico Sisney tweeted.

Rico Sisney and 30 colleagues engaged in peaceful protest on September 12, 2019, at the Houston Ship Channel. They were arrested and charged with a felony by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office under Texas’s controversial new anti-protest law. This week, none were indicted on this charge by a Harris County grand jury. A grand jury refused to issue felony indictments against the activists and all involved.

Ryan Schleeter of Greenpeace relates that 25 misdemeanor indictments were issued instead for obstructing a highway or other passageway, and 6 cases were dismissed completely before submission to the grand jury. The outcome right now is that 22 people still face a separate federal misdemeanor charge for blocking a navigable waterway.

Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said:

“We are grateful that the Harris County grand jury carefully considered the relevant facts and law in making the right decision not to issue indictments on the egregious felony charge. First and foremost, no one violated Texas’ critical infrastructure statute. But importantly, this law and those like it around the country unconstitutionally criminalize peaceful protest and violate First Amendment rights to free speech. They also disproportionately affect Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities who are fighting for their lives as they try to stay above water in this climate crisis. It is vital for our democracy and for justice that we protect the right to peaceful dissent. As for the new misdemeanor charge, we will continue to mount the best possible defense for our activists.”

Rico Sisney added:

“This felony charge is now behind me, and while my family and I are feeling a tremendous sense of relief, Black, Brown and Indigenous people on the frontlines have had no relief from polluted air and water and climate-fueled disasters. Fossil fuel companies have made trillions of dollars while endangering billions of people and gotten away with it — just like corporations and politicians get away with dehumanizing migrant, disabled, low-income, and other marginalized people. If we truly prioritize the well-being of the most vulnerable over the profits of the most powerful, we must continue to use our gifts and raise our voices for a just transition and renewable energy for all.”

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Cynthia Shahan

Cynthia Shahan, started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. Words can be used improperly depending on the culture you are in. (Several unrelated publications) She has a degree in Education, Anthropology, Creative Writing, and was tutored in Art as a young child thanks to her father the Doctor.

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