Protesters Scale Crane Located Near White House, Unfurl ‘Resist' Banner

After about 14 hours on the crane, all seven protesters came down and were arrested

Seven protesters associated with the environmental group Greenpeace climbed a 270-foot crane just blocks from the White House and unfurled a banner with the word "Resist."

The group scaled the crane along 15th and L streets in northwest Washington in the dark before dawn Wednesday, police said. By the time construction workers arrived for work, the protesters were busy working on the banner. They revealed it after 9 a.m. The banner was later rolled up but was still attached to the crane.

The Metropolitan Police Department took a hands-off approach while the protesters suspended themselves from harnesses and ropes below the crane's huge arm.

After about 14 hours of sitting at the top of the crane, the protesters started to make their slow and careful descent and all seven of them were on the ground by 10 p.m.

Greenpeace tweeted just after 10 p.m., "The seven activists are all safely down. These activists deserve a big THANK YOU for their strength. #ResistOften"

Police officers began questioning the protesters once they climbed down and arrested them soon after.

Police had closed three city blocks to traffic while the protesters were on top of the crane and appeared content to wait until they climbed down to be arrested. Police will consult with prosecutors on charges.

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The protesters clearly were experienced climbers, said 46-year-old carpenter John Evans, who works at the site which previously was home to the Washington Post. He noted 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.”

Capt. Robert Glover of the Metropolitan Police Department told reporters Wednesday morning that officers were called to the area of 15th and L streets and found three people who weren't authorized to be at the site attached to the crane. Four more people joined them on the crane. 

According to a press release from Greenpeace, the 70-by-35-foot banner is a call "for those who want to resist Trump's attacks on environmental, social, economic, and educational justice."

"It was chilly when we arrived at the crane site, but it was a lot chillier in the Oval Office when President Trump signed those executive orders," Karen Topakian said in a Facebook Live filmed from the crane.

Topakian, chairwoman of Greenpeace and a resident of San Francisco, did several Facebook Live posts from atop the crane. In one, she wrote to friend, Pat Bresee, "this is why I had to miss book group last night." Bresee wrote back in the comments section: "Knew you were in DC for an important event. Go go go."

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Topakian, protected with a yellow hard hat, gave several long speeches from her livestream. She said the country needed to "resist" Trump's actions against the environment, including building the North Dakota Access Pipeline, and she lamented the fact that nuclear weapons were in his hands.

"No social change movement ever succeeded without nonviolent direct action," she said, adding that as a lesbian, she was thankful to all those who stood up for her civil rights. She also showed viewers how she was securely attached to the crane, adding with a shaky laugh: "For people who know me you know I hate heights.”

Topakian's stunt and livestream got thousands of comments and hundreds of thousands of views on Facebook, both pro and con. Stacie Gilkeson thanked her for climbing out of her comfort zone. Rachel Springstead told her to accept the results and criticized her for doing something that is "dangerous and illegal."

Some people just wanted to say hi. Steve Shapiro shouted out "awesome Karen. Long way from our standing on a corner in Noe Valley."

The protest comes a day after President Donald Trump's administration moved to delay implementation of at least 30 environmental rules and froze new Environmental Protection Agency contracts and grant awards.

Police say 15th Street is closed between L and M streets.

Stay with News4 on-air and online for more on this developing story. 

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