Activists who attracted international attention when they climbed atop a construction crane in downtown Washington vowed Thursday to continue pushing back against the Trump administration even as they face criminal charges in connection with the protest.
With their legs and ankles shackled with iron restraints, the seven activists, affiliated with the international environmental group Greenpeace, stood before a D.C. Superior Court magistrate judge during a Thursday hearing. They had been arrested on misdemeanor charges of unlawful entry, destruction of property and unlawful demonstrating.
The judge ordered the four women and three men released from police custody but instructed them to stay out of the 1100 block of 15th Street NW, where their Wednesday protest occurred.
The protesters, who used harnesses and other climbing equipment, had perched on the 270-foot crane for hours, unfurling a large banner with the message: “Resist.” D.C. police shut down traffic near the site, about a half-mile from the White House, and passersby stopped to watch.
After the seven were released, about 20 friends who had waited in the audience cheered and applauded. They handed the defendants bottled water as they exited.
One of the protesters, Karen Topakian, 62, of San Francisco, said she is so afraid of heights that she won’t climb a ladder in her home to change a lightbulb. But she said she needed to help get the group’s message out.
“I put my fears aside to fight for justice and what I believe in. I thought about people who were afraid and pushed through their fears to fight for civil rights at lunch counters, to fight for women’s rights, to fight for the environment,” she said. “I choose to resist and to resist the policies and promises of the Trump administration.”
Another protester, Pearl Robinson, 26, of Oakland, Calif., said she was confident that her climbing equipment would keep her safe. On Wednesday, Robinson spoke to reporters by phone from atop the crane.
Greenpeace said the organization was protesting the Trump administration and the president’s decision to push forward with the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.
According to a police affidavit, the protesters cut a lock to enter the construction site around 3 a.m. In a statement, Greenpeace said that information was incorrect and that no locks had been cut.
The group carried food, their banner and radios. They started their ascent about 4 a.m. and made it back down about 10 p.m.
According to court documents, the total estimated damages to Clark Construction was about $500,000. Police said 150 construction workers were sent home and were not paid.
The protesters were ordered to return to court March 1. Tom Wetterer, an attorney for the group, said there would be additional demonstrations.
“We will continue to speak loudly and clearly,” he said.
Peter Hermann contributed to this report.