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The Shell icebreaker Fennica passed under the St. Johns Bridge after rappelling protesters were cut away by law enforcement officers. (Photo: KOIN)

Protesters Forcibly Removed by Police As Arctic Drilling Ship Escapes Blockade

After blocking vessel for nearly two days, activists said to be 'tired and hot, but filled with gratitude'

Common Dreams staff

Ending a nearly two-day standoff, Greenpeace activists who had successfully blocked passage of a Shell Oil drilling vessel were dramatically removed from their positions on the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, Oregon on Thurdsay evening as a special team of law enforcement officers cut them away to allow passage of the ship.

"Now all eyes on Pres. Obama to save the Arctic." —GreenpeaceAs the local KOIN TV reported the events:

Hours after anti-Arctic drilling activists successfully stopped Shell’s icebreaker Fennica from leaving a Portland drydock, the ship slowly but effectively passed safely underneath the St. Johns Bridge.

After turning back around 7:45 a.m. on its first attempt to leave Portland, local, state and federal agencies took steps to ensure the ship could leave the dock on its way to the Arctic.

The efforts began around 2:20 p.m. when the St. Johns Bridge was closed. A PF&R High Angle Rope Rescue team was sent to the bridge to prepare. A Portland police officer began rappelling down the bridge around 3:45 p.m.

By 4:45 p.m., 3 climbers were lowered from the St. Johns Bridge in a coordinated effort from law enforcement agencies – local, state and federal. As they got to the boat, they were arrested and handcuffed. Their lines and platforms were pulled down and gathered.

A protester tweeted the authorities were cutting the climbers’ tag lines, then attaching them to the authorities’ lines, taking control in order to lower them off the bridge.

Authorities did not bother clearing all 13 rappelling protesters. Rather, they cleared just enough for the Fennica to have a clear path to make its way under the bridge.

As the events unfolded, an enormous crowd gathered on the shore to watch as boaters and kayakers in the harbor also tried to get in the path of the ship.

Though the activists could not ultimately stop the ship entirely, organizers involved with the blockade effort said the attention the two-day action brought to issue and the courage shown by the many, many people involved constitutes a significant fight in the ongoing campaign to save the Arctic from oil and gas drilling.

"Scientists have sounded the alarm, telling us we need to keep most of our known fossil fuel reserves in the ground," said Maya Jarrad with 350PDX, "and we have heeded the call with direct action in defense of our planet. Hundreds of Portlanders joined us in saying, ‘Shell No!’ and ‘Stop that boat!’ and we are grateful for their support."

Rev. Marilyn Sewell of the First Unitarian Church of Portland said, "There is no greater moral issue before us today than global warming. Our generation has a sacred calling to prevent the worst: flooding of our cities, refugees fleeing rising water, failed states, and armed conflict over resources. The activists who created the blockade with their very bodies are spiritual warriors of the highest degree."

And Daphne Wysham, director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, added, "When our elected officials refuse to act on climate change and permit extreme energy extraction such as Shell’s reckless drilling in the Arctic, we are prepared to take direct, nonviolent action to preserve a planet for all of our children’s sake, and hope others will do the same."

After the Fennica moved beyond the bridge, Greenpeace later announced that all other climbers soon came off the bridge. "Now," the group stated, "all eyes on Pres. Obama to save the Arctic."

Watch:

On Twitter:

In a statement released later on Thursday evening, Shell said, "The Fennica is now safely on its way to Alaska and 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."


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