Greenpeace activists have taken to the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, Oregon, and created a human blockade across the Willamette River's shipping channel by dropping kayaks into the river while 13 Greenpeace protesters have suspended themselves from the beams in attempts to stop a Shell Oil Arctic icebreaker ship from leaving the city.
The group gathered in a park Tuesday evening to stage their bridge-and-water protest. By Wednesday, the Greenpeace activists rappelled off the city's tallest bridge while 13 others stood guard across the St. Johns, all of them equipped with enough food and water supply to keep them on the bridge for several days. Their rappels are also gigged to allow them to hoist themselves up and allow other ships to pass, since they are only attempting to obstruct the Shell's icebreaker Fennica.
The Fennica docked in Portland last week after sailing back from the Aleutian Islands with damages to the hull caused by an underwater obstruction and was scheduled Wednesday to depart for Alaskan water. The Fennica is a member of Shell's spill-response team and a part of an exploration fleet off of Alaska's northwest coast. However, the Fennica has been a part of Arctic oil-drilling operations in the Chukchi Sea as well, which is where the Greenpeace protesters come in. According to U.S. Geological Surveys, combined Arctic offshore reserves in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas amount to about 26 billion barrels of oil. "Our goal is to basically demonstrate as much community resistance to Shell's plans to drill for oil and secure new oil reserves in the Arctic," said Meredith Cocks, organizer with environmental activist group Portland Rising Tide in an NBC News report.
As of 8:10 a.m. local time, protest organizers claimed success after their first showdown when the ship turned around in the river. "With these people hanging here, it was too dangerous for the authorities to move through," said Maya Jarrad, a spokeswoman for 350PDX and Portland Rising Tide, according to Oregon Live. "The kayakers are also impeding the ship's progress." Shell has responded to the demonstration, stating, "Shell acknowledges the right of any individual or organization to express their point of view; however we won't condone illegal or unsafe tactics that put people's safety at risk."