In canoes and kayaks, anti-drilling activists early Monday faced down Shell’s 40,000-ton drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, as it attempted to set sail from Seattle’s Puget Sound to Arctic waters.
At least ten of the “kayaktivists,” including Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, were detained by the U.S. Coast Guard for alleging violating a previous injunction by overstepping a 500-yard restricted “safety” zone around the behemoth rig.
An estimated 40 to 50 supporting kayakers lined up in the waters behind the initial blockade while the group floated an enormous banner which read: “SHell No!”
According to reporting on the scene by Yes! Magazine editor-in-chief Sarah van Gelder, after the first wave of arrests, more kayakers continued to blockade the rig as it made its way through the Sound.
The demonstrators are hoping to stall the rig long enough to thwart Shell’s sensitive drilling timeline. They say they are putting their bodies on the line for the sake of the pristine Arctic ecosystem as well as the future of the planet—both of which are now at great risk due to the fossil fuel industry’s insistence on extracting more oil from increasingly remote sources, such as the Arctic seabed or Canadian tar sands.
This policy, they note, has enjoyed continued support from the administration of President Barack Obama, despite his repeated statements on the urgency of the climate crisis.
“Every minute that brave protesters can delay Shell’s Arctic drilling plans is another chance for President Obama to reconsider his disastrous approval of oil drilling in Alaska,” Greenpeace U.S. executive director Annie Leonard said in a statement. “The President’s decision on Arctic drilling will be a dealbreaker for his climate legacy, but it’s not too late for him to stop this catastrophe before it starts.”
Paloma Henriques, one of the kayaktivists in the blockade, added: “I’m just one voice out here, but I know I’m not alone. I believe that confronting Shell will encourage more people to take a strong stand against them and other companies who are seeking to destroy this planet for profit.”
Henriques said that, in addition to blocking Shell, the group is sending “a message to President Obama that it’s not too late to stop Shell from destroying the Arctic.”
More than 300,000 people have signed a petition calling on Obama to abort the Arctic drilling plan.
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