Greenpeace Protesters Scale Crane, Display Giant Banner

By Theola Labbé-DeBose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 27, 2009; 12:42 PM

Seven protesters from the environmental group Greenpeace scaled a construction crane next to the State Department early this morning and unfurled a large banner protesting global warming, part of a dramatic demonstration that drew scores of emergency workers and snarled traffic into downtown from Northern Virginia.

The 600-square-foot banner bore the Greenpeace logo and showed a satellite picture of planet Earth. The block-letter caption "TOO BIG TO FAIL" echoed recent government explanations of the decision to bail out major U.S. financial institutions. Underneath, in smaller lettering, were the words, "Stop Global Warming. Rescue the Planet."

The banner was in place for about three hours at 23rd and Constitution Avenue, outside the future headquarters building of the U.S. Institute of Peace. Some of the protesters dangled from the 140-foot crane on cables, prompting officials to dispatch rescue squad trucks and other emergency equipment to stand by in case anyone was injured.

The institute is constructing a new home facing the National Mall and located about half a block from the U.S. State Department, where environmental leaders from 17 countries were meeting today to discuss global warming at the Major Economies Forum.

It's not clear how the activists gained entry to the construction site, said Lauren Sucher, spokeswoman for the Institute. Carroll Muffett, deputy campaigns director for Greenpeace, said the group wanted to send a message to the group meeting at State that their cause was as dire as the global economic crisis.

"If the international community can find the political will and the resources to bail out the big banks then they can find the resources to bail out the planet," Muffett said.

Around 9 a.m. the protesters descended from the crane on their own, assisted by the emergency rescue workers. By 10:30 am, police could be seen putting the activists' climbing gear of into large plastic bags.

One of the protesters was Phil Radford, who today began work as the new executive director of Greenpeace USA.

Muffett said he'd been told by D.C. police that the protesters will be charged with unlawful trespass and taken to the Second District police station to be processed.

"We believe our message was heard," Muffett said. He said delegates came out of the State Department meeting to take pictures of the protesters and the banner.

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