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6 activists arrested in protest over processing 'dirty' oil

State Parks Police arrested six activists who unfurled a 70-foot banner Tuesday morning off the observation deck in Niagara Falls State Park in protest of the use of tar sands oil.

Two men and a woman who rappelled to the bottom of the banner dangled from the observation deck for about five hours before climbing back up to face arrest, said Sgt. James Comfort.

"They were tied onto the banner so the banner couldn't be pulled up," Comfort said.

Two other members of the group who were on the catwalk below the observation deck were arrested immediately, Comfort said.

Two members of the State Parks Police rappel team -- Lt. Patrick Moriarty and Sgt. Clyde Doty -- went onto the catwalk with rescue equipment in case the three activists dangling below needed emergency help.

Then, Comfort said, Parks Police officers waited for them to ascend to the top.

"The last one was up at noon," Comfort said.

Doty said the activists appeared to be experienced in rappelling and were able to pull themselves up the rope using a climbing technique.

A Parks Police patrolman discovered the group and the banner hanging off the observation deck just north of the falls at 7:05 a.m., Comfort said.

The clear banner -- which read "clean energy future," with an arrow pointing forward and "tar sands oil" with an arrow pointing backward -- was intended to bring attention to the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network's campaign against tar sands oil, according to the group's Web site.

The protest was timed to coincide with today's meeting between President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, according to the group's Web site.

Tar sands, also known as oil sands, are a combination of clay, sand, water and bitumen, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. The bitumen is extracted during processing and refined into oil.

Brant Olson, director of the Rainforest Action Network's tar sands oil campaign, called the material the "dirtiest oil on Earth." The group said the production of tar sands oil releases three times more climate-changing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than conventional oil.
Canada supplies 19 percent of U.S. oil imports, more than half of which comes from tar sands, according to the Rainforest Action Network.

Parks Police charged five people, including the three climbers, with criminal trespassing and reckless endangerment. They included Duane M. Martinez, 28, of Ashland, Ore.; Aleythea Dolstad-Lown, 23, of Vashon, Wash.; Kristen Stankiewicz, 30, of Portland, Ore.; Logan W. Price, 25, of Goldendale, Wash.; and Nicholas A. Simmons, 25, also of Vashon.

Each of the five posted $500 bail and was released.

Jennifer Krill, 37, of Berkeley, was charged with criminal solicitation. Krill, who was accused of handing out fliers in support of the others, was released on $100 bail.

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com

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