Protests heat up in Seattle, Shell's drilling ships just days away
Shell’s flagship Arctic drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, is inching its way to the Puget Sound and is expected to arrive May 16th. The Port of Seattle signed a lease agreement with Shell in January of this year, circumventing a public review process because of the relatively short stint the ships will stay on its way to the Arctic. Its planned home for the next several months is Terminal 5 on the southern most edge of Elliot Bay.
The story has garnered national attention as the Port continues to feel backlash from locals who are furious that Seattle could be forced to play an integral role in the exploitation of the Arctic. Locals are gearing up for several weeks of action. Some have even compared the build up to the now infamous 1999 WTO protests.
Things kicked off Sunday with a rally and march to the Port of Seattle office in Downtown. An estimated 1200 showed at Myrtle Edwards Park, what became the rally’s waterfront staging grounds. The crowd of children, teens, parents and “ragging grannies” all seemed happy and determined. Speakers discussed the importance of this stand against Shell and that protestors stood in solidarity with indigenous communities, fisherman and “those who care about keeping our planet livable” across the world. As Earth, Wind and Fire came over the speakers, the crowd marched to the Port’s office where they delivered a symbolic kayak and invited the signers of Shell's lease, the Port Commissioners, to join them in fighting Shell from coming into the city. You can watch a high quality video of the day’s rally that serves as a hype video for future demonstrations in May.
This rally was just the first of several planned actions targeted at Shell and the Port. Earlier this month, Greenpeace boarded the Polar Pioneer 750 miles NW of Hawaii. 6 activists stayed aboard the ship for several days until dangerous weather conditions forced them to disembark. Just last week, activists again met the ship near Port Angeles Washington to impress upon Shell that their presence was not welcome. But the biggest actions are still yet to come.
Kicking off May 16th with the “Paddle in Seattle”, a creative show of force that’s calling on any and all with boats, kayaks, rafts and canoes to set sail in Elliot Bay. The drilling ship is set to arrive that morning and there are hundreds already pledged to join the fight. May 18th continues with a march directed at Terminal 5, expected to be the largest turn out of the proposed Shell actions. You can learn all about the event here. The March will follow along the West Seattle Bridge to the doorsteps of where the ships will be housed. Thousands expected to attend as the city makes its voice clear, Seattle says ShellNo.
Nick Abraham - editor and lead contributor of Oil Check Northwest