Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

'Paddle in Seattle' Protesters Welcome Shell Drilling Rig with Two Words: Go Away

Thursday's protest comes ahead of a larger sHell No! demonstration—including mass flotilla and direct action—planned for the weekend

Deirdre Fulton

Paddling activists met the Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig as it arrived in the Port of Seattle. The Space Needle is visible behind the hulking yellow rig. (Photo: Reuters)

Paddling activists rolled out the un-welcome mat as Shell Oil's hulking 'Polar Pioneer' drilling rig—whose presence is opposed by many local citizens, environmentalists, and city officials—pulled into the Port of Seattle on Thursday afternoon.

About 20 kayakers met the 307-foot-tall, 400-foot-long rig in the waters of Elliott Bay, singing, chanting, linking arms, and bearing a banner that read, "Arctic Drilling = Climate Change." Among the group were members of the Duwamish Tribe, who paddled through the waves in a long wooden canoe and led the group in chanted songs, according to the Seattle Times.

The Times adds:

Law-enforcement officers were on the water and overhead to enforce a 500-yard safety zone while the Polar Pioneer was in motion. Coast Guard officials warned the activists beforehand that any disruption of safe navigation could result in arrests.

But the authorities allowed the activists relatively close to the rig when it briefly stopped, and there were no disturbances of note during the afternoon demonstration.

Thursday's protest came in advance of a larger sHell No! demonstration planned for the weekend, including a family-friendly #PaddleinSeattle flotilla on Saturday and a mass direct action on Monday. Zarna Joshi, an organizer with the sHell No! Action Coalition, told Democracy Now! that Monday will involve "land-based actions in order to show Shell that we can shut them down on the water and on the land. They cannot hide."

In a statement about the weekend of resistance, sHell No! organizers declared: "Shell's drilling rigs are a prime example of the root causes and injustice of the climate crisis. They will generate untold wealth for the few, while wrecking the climate for everyone, trampling on Indigenous rights, and causing millions of deaths in the global south."

The Obama administration on Monday granted conditional approval for Shell to resume its Arctic oil exploration. Shell is planning to use Seattle as a base to store and maintain the rigs and other equipment as it drills the Chukchi Sea off Alaska—an arrangement that faces mounting opposition in the city.

As Common Dreams reported this week, the Seattle Port Commission on Tuesday passed a resolution asking Shell to delay the arrival of its drilling rigs, following hours of outraged testimony over the Commission's unilateral decision to house the oil fleet. The Seattle City Council had previously voted unanimously in favor of a resolution urging the Port to reconsider its lease agreement allowing Shell to park its equipment. 

Shell, for its part, remains unmoved by the protests and regulatory questions. "Given the short windows in which we have to work in the Arctic, and our shared view that Shell's lease...is valid, we have made the decision to utilize Terminal 5 under the terms originally agreed upon by the parties involved — including the Port of Seattle," Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told the Associated Press in an email Tuesday. "Rig movement will commence in the days to come."

A second 30-story-high drilling rig, the 'Noble Discoverer,' is also headed to the city this week. That vessel, too, was met by a small fleet of paddling protesters.

AP journalist Phuong Le posits that the fight over Shell in Seattle marks a "pivotal moment for an environmental movement increasingly mobilized around climate change."

Le writes:

Environmental groups in the Pacific Northwest are sensing a shift in the politics that surround energy production and have mobilized against a series of projects that would transform the region into a gateway for crude oil and coal exports to Asia.

"These proposals have woken a sleeping giant in the Northwest," said Eric de Place, policy director for Sightline Institute, a liberal Seattle think tank. "It has unleashed this very robust opposition movement."

Follow the actions on Twitter:


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

As Other States Try to Copy Texas, SCOTUS Asked to Find Abortion Ban Unconstitutional

The request from healthcare providers comes after a Florida Republican filed a copycat bill and advocacy groups called on Congress to affirm the right to abortion nationwide.

Jessica Corbett ·


As Bids to Slash Pentagon Budget Fail, US Military Spending Slammed as 'Height of Absurdity'

"Spending $780 billion on weapons and war while our communities starve, while the climate crisis worsens, while a pandemic that has killed millions and affected countless more rages on, is a national shame."

Brett Wilkins ·


'This Is Big': House Passes Amendment to Cut US Complicity in Saudi Bombing of Yemen

The vote, said Rep. Ro Khanna, "sent a clear message to the Saudis: end the bombing in Yemen and lift the blockade."

Andrea Germanos ·


Praised for 'Braving the Smears,' Tlaib Votes Against $1 Billion in Military Aid to Israel

One rights group thanked Tlaib "for speaking truth to power" while being attacked "for simply insisting that Palestinians are human beings who deserve safety, security, and freedom from Israeli apartheid."

Brett Wilkins ·


'A Choice Point for Humanity': Women Demand Visionary Shift at UN Climate Talks

"This is the time to unite together to build the healthy and just future we know is possible for each other and the Earth."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo