Environmental activists have a message for America under President Donald Trump: “Resist.”
Members of Greenpeace climbed a construction crane just blocks from the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday before unfurling a giant banner displaying their one-word message.
Karen Topakian, chairwoman of Greenpeace’s board, was one of two activists who chained themselves to a ladder leading up to the crane. She spoke by phone to The Huffington Post as five other activists climbed overhead.
“We want them to join us in the resistance. There are many people in the American public that share our concern and our anger at the president,” Topakian said before naming Trump’s stances on a number of hot-button environmental and social issues.
In the five days since Trump was sworn into office, he has signed two executive actions that would resume construction on the controversial Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines ― two projects that had been blocked under President Barack Obama.
Trump’s staff has also ordered the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture to halt communications with public officials and the media and has suspended the EPA from engaging in new business activities.
“We’re not backing down and we’re not letting him push us backwards,” she said.
Topakian urged people to challenge themselves more in their efforts to oppose the Trump administration.
“I’m not even going to say, ‘Do whatever’s comfortable,’ because I’m 100 feet off the ground and I’m chained,” she said, noting her fear of heights.
“Today I was willing to put my fear aside,” Topakian continued. “I’m asking other people to step out of your comfort zone. If we get arrested, then so be it. That’s the price of committing nonviolent civil disobedience.”
I’m not even going to say 'Do whatever’s comfortable,' because I’m 100 feet off the ground and I’m chained. Karen Topakian
Pearl Robinson, a climber who helped release the 70-by-35-foot banner, also echoed its message.
“The sun has risen this morning on a new America, but it isn’t Donald Trump’s,” she said in an emailed statement. “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.”
Asked whether she had any concerns about her colleagues’ safety, Topakian said Robinson and the other climbers were “well trained” and had “tons of experience.”
“Greenpeace would never put someone in this situation if they didn’t,” she said.
The protest shut down several surrounding streets. Local police criticized the protesters’ behavior.
“While we respect everyone’s right to protest, today’s actions are extremely dangerous and unlawful,” The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia said in a statement. “Multiple government resources are being tied up, and unfortunately streets are blocked while first responders try to safely address this matter.”