PORTLAND, Ore. -- A Shell Oil icebreaker arrived in Alaska Thursday, en route to the Arctic following a heated six-day protest in Portland that drew worldwide attention.
The Royal Dutch Shell PLC icebreaker Fennica arrived in Portland for repairs Saturday, July 25. The Fennica had been damaged earlier in the month when it struck an underwater obstruction in the Aleutian Islands, tearing a gash in its hull.
Greenpeace USA executive director Annie Leonard said as it arrived that delaying the icebreaker while it was in Portland would give President Obama more time to reconsider giving Shell the last permit it needs to drill.
Here's how the entire protest transpired:
Beginning on the night of July 24, a group of about climate change activists in kayaks took to the water to protest the ship's arrival. On Saturday, a day later, they surrounded the ship as other protesters on shore waved signs with slogans like, "Shell No, Save the Arctic."
Opponents of Arctic drilling worry the area's remoteness and rugged conditions will hamper cleanup efforts in the event of a spill, risking devastation to a fragile marine ecosystem.
Shell Oil spokeswoma
n Megan Baldino said in a prepared statement, "We respect the rights of individuals and groups to express their opinion, all we ask is that they do so within the confines of the law and maintain safety as their first priority. Safety is paramount. "
On Wednesday, the "kayaktivists" hit the water for the fifth morning of the protest as 13 people hung from ropes attached to the St. Johns Bridge Bridge in an attempt to prevent the Fennica from passing under it. Greenpeace said there were 13 more people on the bridge looking after the safety of the dangling protesters.
Those on the ropes said they were prepared to stay for several days.
"We're prepared to stay as long as it takes to send a message to Shell and stop the Fennica from leaving," said demonstrator Georgia Hirsty.
Another activist told KGW he brought along a copy of Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" to help him pass the time. Still others kept busy by hosting an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit.
"We don't intend to disrupt business of other things or get in the way of other people," Hirsty said.
ere not allowed to cross the span Wednesday. A few protest supporters were allowed on the bridge due to "safety equipment concerns," said Greg Stewart of the Portland Police Bureau. Cyclists were allowed to cross the bridge to commute home beginning at 5:30 p.m., according to police.
The Fennica remained idle for that first day of the St. John's Bridge protest. But then Thursday morning the ship moved out of the dry dock and moved toward the bridge.
The protesters hanging from the bridge lowered themselves closer to the water as the ship approached. All traffic on the St. Johns Bridge was temporarily closed as a precaution.
And shortly after that the boat turned around and headed back to the dock. Just after 8 a.m. the bridge reopened to traffic.
Here's a video recap of the coverage from Thursday morning:
Thursday afternoon as the ship remained in the dry dock showing no signs of movement, members of the Coast Guard, Oregon State Police, Portland Fire & Rescue and other local and state agencies began to converge on the bridge. It was closed in both directions to cars, bikes and pedestrians. And the Willame
tte River was closed from Swan Island to Kelley Point.
Members of a PF&R high-angle rescue team lowered themselves from the bridge and cut the ropes that were connecting the dangling protesters to each other.
Crews then asked those protesters to leave voluntarily before other action was taken, but they refused. Meanwhile on the water, crews with jet skis began hooking onto the kayaks and pulling them closer to shore. One 19-year-old man jumped out of his kayak, refused to come out of the water and got into a fight with a deputy, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. The man was arrested for assaulting a public safety officer.
Facebook video: #ShellNo vs. the Fennica in 36 seconds
"Our number one priority is safety," said Portland police Sgt. Pete Simpson.
The dangling protesters began voluntarily lowering themselves, one at a time, starting at around 4:30 p.m. Members of their support teams above were put in plastic handcuffs and escorted off the bridge.
The U.S. Coast Guard cited 13 protesters for entering established safety zones around the ship. The recommended fine for each citation was $500, but the Coast Guard could seek up to $40,000 for each violation. Each person will have the chance to refute their fines to hearing officers, the Coast Guard said.
As the protes
ters were removed, the Fennica began heading toward bridge. Crews continued to push the kayaktivists out of the way and the ship passed under the bridge just before 6 p.m. The bridge was reopened to all traffic by 8 p.m.
The boat passed under the Astoria-Megler Bridge early Friday morning and on the following Thursday, it docked in Dutch Harbor Alaska.
"The Fennica will join Shell's exploration fleet in the Chukchi Sea -- where the Transocean Polar Pioneer commenced initial drilling operations at approximately 5:00 tonight AKDT," Shell Oil reported in a statement.
For every hour the protesters hung from the bridge, Greenpeace was fined $2,500. That number would have risen each day the protesters blocked the ship's path. The final tally as the Fennica left Portland was $17,500, according to KGW"s Kyle Iboshi.
Still, a Greenpeace spokeswoman called the protest a success.
"We found that the blockade was successful," said Mary Nicol. "Climate change does present a real threat to everyone globally."
She said the organization is prepared to accept the financial consequences of the protests. She still hopes the protest will spur President Obama to reconsider allowing Shell Oil to drill in the Arctic.
Mayor Charlie Hales released the following statement about the protest after it wrapped up:
"This was a hard day for me – and for a lot of people in Portland. I oppose drilling in the Arctic. But it was a great day for Portland in these ways:
- First, we made sure everyone was safe. Everyone was committed to safety, including the protesters, our amazing first responders, the Coast Guard, and the activists. That was our first priority.
- Our second priority was free speech. It was imperative that the protesters be heard. They were, on a national and even international scale. That's something we all believe in, here in Portland.
- And third, we enforced the law.
Now it's time to move from protest to action: to changing the laws. After all, that's the point of the protest.
I want to thank everyone involved in this situation."
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) also released a statement condemning the oil drilling mission in the Arctic:
"The Arctic region is full of scenic splendor and is habitat to many endangered and threatened species," he said. "Many people are concerned about the protesters that are hanging from the St. John's Bridge in Portland. No matter how you feel about the protests, we should all get behind their call to stop any drilling for oil in the Arctic, where federal studies estimate a 75 percent chance of at least one large oil spill during the lease."