People Power in Portland

Portland GreenpeaceFrom Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace, in a DemocracyNow.Org interview covering the creative and courageous action blocking Shell Oil ships heading to the Arctic to drill:

Well, yesterday was an absolutely incredible day, a display of people power. Throughout the day, the crowds just kept growing, as you said. There were hundreds of kayakers going in shifts, filling the river so that if the boat tried to leave, there would be both lines of defense—the aerial barricade and then the people.

In the morning, Shell went—got a hearing in a court in Alaska. Shell had taken out a preliminary injunction prohibiting us from going within a certain distance of them and prohibiting us from interfering with their work. The court did find us in contempt of court and ordered us to get off the bridge and fined us hourly fines starting at $2,500 an hour, going up to $10,000 an hour. We met with the climbers on the bridge. We really felt it was their decision, first and foremost. And we all decided to stay on the bridge, that saving the Arctic was worth more than the monetary value of the fine that they were imposing. So we stayed absolutely put there.

Then, around 3:00 in the afternoon, the police came out to the bridge and began to escort the anchors off. The anchors were the people that each climber had on the bridge to ensure their safety, who stayed there 24/7. They took them away, gave them very minor citations and released them. Then they started to force the climbers down. And in an incredible display of just absolute chaos, the police and the Coast Guard came, forced the climbers down and began to take them all away. And they only opened up—didn’t take all of them; they opened up an opening large enough for the Shell ship to come through. The ship started to come, and dozens and dozens of kayakers came and threw themselves in front of the ship. People jumped out of their kayaks to try to stop them. People were on inflatable pool toys. And it was absolute chaos. The Coast Guard ran over one of the kayakers. I mean, it was absolute mayhem.

The Coast Guard managed to pull all the kayakers away, one by one, in a very dangerous situation, clearing just enough space for the Shell vessel to squeak through. It came so close to the remaining climbers that were there, squeaked through. People on the shore literally started crying. It was just heartbreaking to watch this thing go through, because we know the climate implications. It squeaked through, and then it headed out to sea to go up to the Arctic and start the drilling process.

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