Early Wednesday morning, protesters representing Greenpeace climbed to the top of a 270-ft-tall tower crane in Washington, D.C., to rig and hang a large banner over the city that read “Resist.” The protest was held at the site of the Midtown Center project, a 14-story 875,000-sq-ft mixed-use project that will be the future home of Fannie Mae. The site is located a few blocks north of the White House. Onlookers standing on the south side of the White House could see the banner in full view.
Site supervisors from Clark Construction discovered the seven protesters just before 6 a.m., Jan. 25. Bethesda, Md.-based Clark is the general contractor on the project. Supervisors found that the lock to an entrance gate had been cut, according to Lee Delong, senior vice president at Clark Construction.
The site is surrounded by standard 8-ft-high security fencing. The development, which is owned by Carr Properties, is not considered a high-security facility and no security guards or additional security measures were required on the site, Delong said.
Five protesters rigged and rappelled from the crane’s boom to hang the banner. Two other protesters were chained in the tower stairs to block access to the crane. Delong said that some operations were allowed to continue on site, but all activities related to the crane ceased and no one was allowed to work directly below the crane, in case anything fell from the boom.
“We suffered a significant loss of productivity due to these people’s unlawful actions,” Delong said. “We have a very active jobsite and many workers onsite. We had deliveries scheduled and concrete operations scheduled. It was very disruptive.”
Crews are currently pouring structural concrete at the sixth level of one of the two towers. That work was halted today, he said. The urban site does not have laydown area or an onsite-batch plant, so just-in-time deliveries are required. Those deliveries had to be canceled, Delong said.
Delong said that, although the protesters did not operate the crane, it will need to be full inspected before it can be used again. “My belief, in the discussions we’ve had, is that as quickly as [authorities] clear the areas, we’ll do everything we can to get back to work.”
“To climb that crane and rig it, I’d imagine, was quite an endeavor,” he added.
In light of the incident, Delong said Clark does not plan to make any sweeping changes to its site security policies, but it will review existing policies on a site-by-site basis to make sure they are appropriate.
In a statement, the D.C. Police Dept. noted that multiple government resources were tied up by the protest and streets had to be blocked around the area near 15th Street and L Street, NW.
“While we respect everyone’s right to protest, today’s actions are extremely dangerous and unlawful,” according to the statement.
One of the protesters, Karen Topakian, board chair for Greenpeace USA, said in a video posted to Facebook that the action was a “message of resistance for our folks who are fighting for human rights, fighting for climate change, fighting for a better world.” Topakian expressed concerns over the Trump administration’s recent approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline projects, as well as executive orders aimed at curbing immigration and refugee programs.
“We believe people in this country do not want to go down that path,” she said