Campaigners in Portland took their protest against Shell’s Arctic drilling to whole new heights on Wednesday when 13 Greenpeace activists were suspended from the St John’s Bridge.
While prior hints had suggested the protest would reprise the “kayaktivist” blockade tactics seen in Seattle in recent months, the bridge event is a spectacular new tack which makes for dramatic video images.
The protesters, from Greenpeace, are aiming to stop the Shell-hired icebreaker Fennica when it leaves a Portland shipyard after undergoing repairs to a gash in its hull. That departure is believed to be imminent
The 13 rappelled off the bridge with the assistance of 13 colleagues who were on the traffic level of the bridge. Vehicles continued to pass.
They have food and water and plan to sleep in hammocks suspended over the Willamette River, which provides shipping access to the Pacific Ocean from Portland. They brandished banners reading “Shell no” and “Last chance President Obama”.
A Greeenpeace spokesperson said that with the right weather conditions the protesters could stay up there for three to five days.
The environmentalists fear that Arctic drilling risks catastrophic oil pollution because the region’s extreme conditions would make containment and clean up much more difficult.
The Fennica, which is Finnish owned, is crucial to the Shell drilling campaign because it holds a capping stack, a vital piece of equipment for plugging an oil well, should one blow out.