High-tech black coats meant to send a message about Iran-Iraq trade blocked, arrested on Southern California pier

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter the Cold Harbor arrests two environmental protesters wearing cut-out raincoats and holding banners while protesting the driving-for-sale eBay website in New York City, on July 11, 2015. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty…

High-tech black coats meant to send a message about Iran-Iraq trade blocked, arrested on Southern California pier

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter the Cold Harbor arrests two environmental protesters wearing cut-out raincoats and holding banners while protesting the driving-for-sale eBay website in New York City, on July 11, 2015. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard arrested four men in San Diego who were part of an environmental group that planned to blow up diesel fuel from U.S. Army trucks that are being shipped to Iraq for use in their military power plants. It is a tactic that is being used as part of a larger attempt to shut down all U.S. military oil exports to the Middle East.

These actions have the obvious effect of promoting a conversation around the issue of oil dependency and, more broadly, how dependence on oil is part of what has led to climate change. But they can go too far. While it is right to be concerned about cutting off oil exports in order to prevent U.S. military support for Middle Eastern nations that deny women and children water and other basic human rights, it also risks turning into an economic act, and creating an artificial shortage that would negatively affect U.S. consumers and kill jobs at home.

CBP discovered and apprehended a suspicious vessel after a tip from “citizen tips” on Sept. 25 near the San Diego harbor, according to a CBP statement. The first suspect was arrested without incident, but two others were arrested a short distance away and turned over to the Coast Guard. Four U.S. Army trucks loaded with diesel fuel made the voyage from the San Diego port to the African country of Chad before they were discovered. In a statement after the arrests, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that the cargo vessel had been operated by US Green, a private company involved in the transport of toxic and hazardous materials.

US Green arranges for these shipments and a return trip as part of a subscription-based service, according to a company statement. The charge that is being levied against the company is “unauthorized crude oil transportation in foreign ports.”

“It’s a really, really good service that helps to protect the environment and to make sure we keep the fuel off the streets,” the company stated. “It helps us keep our workers safe.”

Just a quarter-mile away from where the trucks were being loaded, the Oceanside Regional Jail took in those involved in the protest, including two women and two men from the environmental group Direct Action Everywhere. Under the conditions of their arrests, they are required to serve 90 days in jail before they are released. The seized diesel fuel has been destroyed and the four are facing a second-degree felony charge that carries up to five years in prison.

The arrests come just three weeks after a group of women and men calling themselves Rise and Resist parked in front of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection station in San Diego on Sept. 10 to call attention to their organization’s initiative “Boil the Pentagon.” Rising Tide hopes to shut down all military fuel exports to force the Pentagon to reduce its petroleum consumption to 20 percent below that of the 1990s. While peaceful, the initiative has included previous protests that have involved wads of black liquid being poured into the tank of a military vessel.

The group does have access to high-powered, water-powered devices that would likely destroy the trucks carrying the fuel, but the activists said that using the equipment would detract from the message of wanting to focus on the organizations responsible for the problem.

“It has to be the excuse to punish the people,” said Michelle Hanis, a protester, in a news release on Sept. 10. “It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”

Read the full story at CNN.

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