The Houston Ship Channel on Friday reopened for vessel traffic, the U.S. Coast Guard said, after the last of 11 protesters who had disrupted traffic by dangling on ropes above the key energy-export waterway was removed by police earlier in the morning.
A large portion of the channel was closed when Greenpeace protesters attached themselves and banners to a bridge over the waterway to bring attention to climate change during Thursday's presidential candidates debate in Houston. Police arrested 23 Greenpeace members involved in the protest, with the last removed about 1 a.m. local time by Harris County Sheriff's Office officers, said Travis Nichols, a Greenpeace spokesman. The 23 were taken to the Harris County jail in Houston and are expected to be arraigned today, he said.
A spokesman for the sheriff's office did not reply to requests for comment. Briscoe Cain, a Texas state lawmaker whose district includes part of the ship channel, said the group would be the first to be charged under a recently enacted state law that makes disrupting critical infrastructure a crime.
The protests had halted movement on a large portion of the Houston Ship Channel, which stretches 53 miles (85 km) from its entrance in the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of Houston. The area affected is home to five major oil refineries as well as chemical and oil-export terminals. Day-long shut downs caused by fog are typically cleared within a day, a Coast Guard official said on Thursday.
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