Arctic Drilling Protesters Block Oil Rig Entry Into Seattle Port
A few hundred critics of oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean blocked the entrances Monday to a seaport terminal in Seattle, where Royal Dutch Shell’s massive floating oil rig will be loaded up before heading to the waters off Alaska this summer.
Protesters holding banners and flags marched across a bridge to Terminal 5, temporarily closing the road during Monday morning’s commute. Once at the terminal, they spread out across the entrances.
Organizers say they plan to engage in civil disobedience to stop work on the drill rig, the latest protest of the 400-foot Polar Pioneer’s arrival in Seattle. Protesters greeted the rig Thursday and then hundreds of activists in kayaks and other vessels turned out Saturday for a protest dubbed the “Paddle in Seattle.”
Shell, which hopes to use the rig to explore for oil off Alaska’s northwest coast, said it was planning to release a statement Monday.
Police say arrests are possible, but they expect the demonstration to be peaceful. A few dozen officers followed the march on foot and bicycle and kept watch at the terminal.
There were minimal operations at Terminal 5 “so there’s not much to block,” Port of Seattle spokesman Peter McGraw said. The operator of Terminal 18, a major hub of port activity where the march began, closed those gates in anticipation of the demonstration, he said.
Officials have been urging people to exercise their First Amendment rights safely, and “that’s what we’ve been seeing so far,” McGraw said.
The activists say they are concerned about the risk of an oil spill in the remote Arctic waters and the effects that tapping new frontiers of oil and gas reserves will have on global warming. Officials in Alaska have touted the economic benefits that drilling could bring there and to the Pacific Northwest.
On Monday, protesters of all ages sang, rapped and danced at the vehicle gate of Terminal 5. They chanted and held signs saying “Climate Justice For All” and “You Shell Not Pass.”
Lisa Marcus, 58, a musician who participated in Saturday’s protest, turned up with her “Love the planet” sign for another day of activism Monday.
“We’ve got to wake up” to the dangers of human-caused climate change, she said, ticking off a list of environmental problems that the world is facing. “Shell is trying to make it worse and that’s not acceptable.”