Protesters Removed From Portland Bridge
Note: No doubt this will not be the end of protests against Shell’s plans for arctic drilling. Shell seems desperate to make this dangerous extreme energy drilling. Why? Money of course. Their profits are dropping and they need to reverse the decline. MSNBC reports that “The protests coincide with Shell’s second quarter earnings report, which shows a $2.3 billion drop in profits. Thousands of layoffs are planned, among other adjustments, adding urgency to oil giant’s push to explore the Arctic.” No doubt the protests that have already occurred and the ones that are coming will not help Shell.
Just before 6 p.m. Thursday night, Shell Oil’s controversial icebreaker MSV Fennica weaved through nine remaining protesters hanging from the St. Johns Bridge and made its way toward the Pacific Ocean.
After winning an early morning game of chicken with the ship, Greenpeace protesters suspended from the bridge and in kayaks and canoes on the river were left disappointed. Thirteen of them had spent the better part of 40 hours in climbers slings and on portable platforms.
On Thursday afternoon, after more than six hours of relative quiet, boats manned by Coast Guard officers and Portland-area police officers began circling protesters in kayaks and canoes on the Willamette River below the St. Johns Bridge.
Two-hundred feet above the water’s surface on the North Portland bridge, Portland police blocked access to all vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Thirteen Greenpeace USA protesters continued to swing by lines attached to the bridge’s supports. They have spent the past 36 hours on slings and small platforms about 100 feet above the water.
Early Thursday morning, the Shell Oil icebreaker MSV Fennica moved out of dry dock, environmental activists and protesters pinched the Willamette River’s shipping channel and Portland police closed traffic across the St. Johns Bridge.
The moves set the stage for a showdown involving Greenpeace protesters who are hanging from the bridge and floating on the Willamette River with the goal of blocking the ship from moving out of Portland and returning to the Arctic where it has been part of oil-drilling operations.
Within two hours, the ship had turned around and headed back upstream toward downtown Portland, protesters celebrated a first victory and police allowed traffic to return to the bridge during the morning commute’s busiest hours.
8:17 p.m.. UPDATE: Police report that all but one lane of the St. Johns Bridge reopening.
6:30 p.m. UPDATE: “Everybody’s hearts are broken,” Greenpeace USA spokeswoman Cassady Sharp said Thursday evening.
Sharp said the remaining protesters would be removed from the bridge. Her group’s top priority was to make sure the protesters who had been suspended from the bridge’s railings for nearly 40 hours were provided with food, water and rest.
“They’re just getting amazing love and support,” Sharp said. “That’s what makes us feel encouraged after today.”
Philip Fensterer of North Portland arrived at Cathedral Park at 5 p.m. Thursday and saw that two protesters were missing from the bridge. At that moment, he said he knew their fight was lost. It was only a matter of time until the boat passed through.
“It was frustrating and heartbreaking,” he said.
“I’m not surprised. I was shocked and exhilarated when they turned the boat around this morning,” he said.
5:55 p.m. UPDATE: The MSV Fennica passes under the St. Johns Bridge and past the protesters who have dangled from the bridges frame for more than 40 hours.
5:48 p.m. UPDATE: Police boats are clearing a lane for the MSV Fennica to move down the Willamette River toward the Columbia River.
5:40 p.m. UPDATE: The MSV Fennica has stopped short of the St. Johns Bridge; kayakers continue to block the ship’s route out of Portland.
5:35 p.m. UPDATE: The MSV Fennica is approaching the St. Johns Bridge.
Nine of the original 13 protesters who were hanging over the side of the bridge remain. The other protesters have been removed by authorities and their colorful flags have been removed.
5:23 p.m. UPDATE: The MSV Fennica is underway. It has left the Swan Island shipyard of Vigor Industrial and is headed downstream toward the Columbia River. The Coast Guard closed the river to all traffic.
— Molly Young (@mollykyoung) July 31, 2015
5:15 p.m. UPDATE: The Coast Guard detained at least a dozen kayakers, escorting them to shore after removing them from their boats while on the Willamette River late Thursday afternoon.
Alain Millar said Coast Guard officers ordered him from his kayak and onto a Coast Guard boat after the Willamette River was closed to all traffic. During the hour he was held on the Coast Guard boat, Millar said he was offered water and told he was being detained for violating the river-closure order.
While he was detained, Millar said he saw pleasure boaters passing under the bridge. He said he didn’t think protesters were treated fairly.
“People who are exercising their First Amendment rights are being detained,” he said.
As the Coast Guard pulled in with one group of detainees, people on the Cathedral Park dock cheered in support of the protesters.
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office moved at least one of the kayakers into custody.
4:48 p.m. UPDATE:
4:45 p.m. UPDATE: On Thursday afternoon, Sydney Paschall of North Portland was on her third visit to the banks of the Willamette River since the protests began. She described them as a “very bold statement” to help the environment.
“People take for granted everything we are lucky to have,” she said.
4:34 p.m. UPDATE:
4:30 p.m. UPDATE: Kayaker Michelle Seidelman from St. Helens said she had been on the Willametter River for about five hours Thursday. She said she thought authorities were being aggressive and trying to grab kayakers with boat hooks. She said she was prepared to stay on the water until the end.
“It’s scary but it’s the right thing to do,” Seidelman said. “If we don’t stand up who will?”
4:18 p.m. UPDATE: Portland police report that some of the protesters who have repelled off the side of the St. Johns Bridge have voluntarily left the bridge. Others will be removed by police.
4:15 p.m. UPDATE: Coast Guard officers used hooked poles to actively block kayakers who want to enter the Willamette River at Cathedral Park. As the Coast Guard blocked kayakers, an angry crowd gathered and chanted, “Go to hell with Shell.”
The Coast Guard announced that the Willamette River is closed to all boats from Vigor Industrial shipyard on Swan Island to Kelley Point Park at the Columbia River.
3:55 p.m. UPDATE:
3:50 p.m. UPDATE: A climber is being lowered over the side rail of the St. Johns Bridge near the protesters from Greenpeace USA.
3:35 p.m. UPDATE: Law enforcement officers have closed the Willamette River to all traffic. They said anyone remaining in the river will be arrested. Officers in motor boats are pushing through the kayaks and canoes that remain in the water, urging people to get away from the St. Johns Bridge and off the river.
“It shall never be said that we did not try to save common resources from corrupt and greedy governments and corporations,” Stacey Phillips of Salem. He drove up with border collie mix Zoey to watch the demonstrations.
3:30 p.m. UPDATE: People with kayaks and canoes continued to line up to enter the river, even as police warned everyone to stay 100 yards downstream of the St. Johns Bridge.
Jan Woodruff of Anacortes, Washington, has been at the St. Johns Bridge since the protest began Wednesday.
“They have a deplorable record on the environment,” Woodruff said of Shell Oil. “And they have no business in the Arctic. We are going to see what we can do about it.”
Woodruff said the scene of police circling “kayaktavists” and officers requesting protesters to give up brought tears to her eyes. “I think that’s going to be in Wikipedia in 20 years. Don’t you?”
She called the Portland protests the “front line of 2015.”
About a dozen emergency vehicles are parked at the center of the St. Johns Bridge, which is closed to all other traffic. Vehicles include: firetrucks, ambulances, a sheriff’s van and many police cars.
3:15 p.m. UPDATE: Cassady Sharp, Greenpeace USA spokeswoman, said her group’s protesters were in a holding pattern. They had yet to make a decision on what their next moves would be.
All 13 Greenpeace USA protesters suspended from the bridge remain in place. Sharp said some of the people standing on the top of the bridge who have been providing supplies to protestors have been removed from bridge by authorities. (There is no word if they have been arrested.)
Police are telling all boaters in kayaks and canoes to move 100 yards downriver from the St. Johns Bridge.
2:55 p.m. UPDATE: Law enforcement officials on top of the St. Johns Bridge are using a traffic cone as a megaphone to hail protesters swinging below the bridge. People on the ground are unable to hear the message clearly.
Supporters of the protesters are drowning out many of the orders from law enforcement on the water and on the bridge.
2:45 p.m. UPDATE: At least one boater has been taken into custody on the Willamette River.
Police officers are on the St. Johns Bridge. The only pedestrians allowed on the bridge over the past two days have been Greenpeace USA volunteers who are monitoring the protesters swinging on lines below the bridge.
2:30 p.m. UPDATE: Boats from the Coast Guard, the Oregon State Police, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office are circling protesters in kayaks and canoes.
Police have closed the St. Johns Bridge to all traffic.
1:15 p.m. UPDATE: A U.S. Coast Guard ship arrived just south of the St. Johns Bridge at about 1 p.m. A public-address announcement from the ship was directed at protesters. Minutes later, the ship moved away from the bridge.
About a dozen kayaks floated under the bridge, and more were deploying their kayaks from the Cathedral Park boat ramp.
Meanwhile, on the beach south of the bridge a man held up in large sign saying “Alaskans support Shell.” The man was the lone protester in support of Shell near the St. Johns Bridge.
12:45 UPDATE: Police have allowed the boat ramp downstream from the St. Johns Bridge to reopen. The last officer left the parking lot at about 12:35 p.m.
11:55 a.m. UPDATE: Petty Officer first class George Degner, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman, said the Coast Guard would continue to enforce a safety zone around the MSV Fennica.
The zone extends 500 yards out from the front of the vessel and 100 yards from the ship’s sides and stern, he said.
“Our mission is to make sure that people stay safe on the water,” Degner said. “We respect the right of people to express their opinions, but we want to make the waterway safe for all users.”
11:45 a.m. UPDATE: The Oregonian/OregonLive posted a new story about Thursday morning’s protest: Protesters claim victory in 1st showdown with Shell Oil icebreaker
11 a.m. UPDATE: Portland police closed the boat ramp parking lot downstream of the bridge to all vehicles other than ones towing a boat or carrying a boat for the boat ramp.
10:30 a.m. UPDATE: River traffic continued along the Willamette River on Thursday morning after the first showdown between the Shell Oil icebreaker and activists wanting to block its return to Arctic waters.
A video shows a tugboat pushing a barge downriver under the St. Johns Bridge. The tugboat easily passed under protesters who are hanging about midway between the river and the bridge’s roadway. The roadway is 205 feet above the river’s surface.
8:10 a.m. UPDATE: Protest organizers claimed success for their tactics after the MSV Fennica turned around in the river in the first showdown between the Shell Oil icebreaker and Greenpeace protesters who were hanging from the St. Johns Bridge
“With these people hanging here it was too dangerous for the authorities to move through,” said Maya Jarrad a spokeswoman for 350PDX and Portland Rising Tide.
“The kayakers are also impeding the ship’s progress,” she said.
8 a.m. UPDATE: Traffic is returning to the St. Johns Bridge. Portland police are allowing drivers to cross the bridge that is usually busy with morning commuters.
Protesters from Greenpeace and other groups declared victory in the first confrontation with authorities who asked them to depart the St. Johns Bridge early Thursday morning.
“This is awesome, we got them to turn around,” said kayaktivist Eric Ross from Vashon Island, Washington.
Lisa Szot, who watched the protesters on Wednesday night and Thursday morning said the she supports the argument to block the MSV Fennica. “I think it’s inspirational,” said the Portland resident. “It’s a really beautiful protest.”
7:50 a.m. UPDATE: Railroad drawbridge lifted and MSV Fennica headed under. The ship is headed back toward downtown Portland.
Shell Oil’s icebreaker had spent the previous week at Vigor Industrial’s dry dock on Swan Island where workers repaired a tear in the ship’s hull.
7:40 a.m. UPDATE: The MSV Fennica turned around in the Willamette channel. It is idling with its bow pointing south toward downtown Portland. Protesters on the water and hanging from the bridge cheered.
The ship is stopped near the railroad drawbridge that crosses the Willamette River.
Minutes later, a motorized paraglider buzzed the bridge, flying very close to the dangling protesters.
7:35 a.m. UPDATE: Daphne Wysham, with the Center for Sustainable Economy, organizers of the flotilla of so-called “kayaktivists” said said they intend to keep blocking the river.
“There is no Plan B, just as there is no Planet B; we have no intention of moving until President Obama rescinds the permit for Shell to drill in the Arctic,” Wysham said in a news release.
At about 7:30 a.m., a barge pushed along by a tugboat with three large metal towers approached the bridge, apparently to clear the way for the MSV Fennica.
The tugboat blasted its horn five times, a signal for the kayakers to get out of the channel. The barge and tugboat then passed under the bridge without incident.
7:25 a.m. UPDATE: The MSV Fennica, the Shell Oil icebreaker at the center of the protest, departed its dry dock at about 6 a.m. It headed north along the river before stopping about 300 yards from the St. Johns Bridge.
The icebreaker is accompanied by U.S. Coast Guard small vessels and Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office River patrol boats.
Onshore, Coast Guard officers, some armed, walked among the protesters and in the area of the boat ramp to the north of the bridge.
The number of kayaks and canoes floating in the center of the Willamette continues to increase. About 20 are in the river, with the number climbing.
7:15 a.m. UPDATE: Supporters of the Greenpeace protesters cheered and jeered as authorities announced through a public address system that they must leave the St. Johns Bridge.
On the boat ramp downstream of the bridge, “kayaktivists” hoping to block the ship’s departure took to the water in kayaks and canoes.
Above them, the 13 protesters dangling about 100 feet below the bridge roadway and the same distance above the Willamette River swung in the wind. They are tied to both the bridge and to each other, making it difficult for authorities to remove them one at a time.
6:55 a.m. UPDATE: Portland police used bullhorns to order protesters off the St. Johns Bridge.
Authorities told protesters at 6:45 a.m. that they were trespassing and in violation of a federal court injunction against Greenpeace USA.
“You are unwelcome and trespassing and must immediately depart from this area,” the recorded message said. It was repeated over and over again.
6:30 a.m. UPDATE: Thirteen protesters who affixed themselves to the St. Johns Bridge early Wednesday morning remained dangling from the bridge as the sun rose Thursday. At the same time, dozens of protesters in kayaks and canoes swarmed under the bridge to crowd the waterway and to support those above.
“The activists went to sleep last night really encouraged by the support of the movement,” Greenpeace spokeswoman Cassady Sharp said Thursday morning.
Sharp said the protesters were exhausted from being suspended on ropes and pulleys for more than 30 hours. Most, she said, used adult diapers to relieve themselves.
Each activist dangling from ropes on the bridge continued to fly long yellow or red banners while the support crews on the bridge’s deck above folded up sleeping bags and gear.