The Polar Pioneer lumbered out of town Monday, headed to Alaska to begin exploratory oil drilling for Royal Dutch Shell — despite activists’ best efforts to stop it.
During its month-long visit, the giant yellow contraption became a visual symbol of climate change rising into the Seattle skyline. It drew thousands to protest on land and sea, pitted the Mayor against the Port of Seattle, and led to the arrest of at least one city council member and multiple grannies.
You probably won’t miss the Polar Pioneer bobbing out there like a giant middle finger from the oil industry. But there was something magical about the way it brought people together.
Thanks for the memories:
May 17th: Kayaktivism is born
Two days after the Polar Pioneer arrived at Terminal 5, hundreds of activists in kayaks swarmed the rig in protest. (Yes, smartypants, some of those kayaks are made from petroleum products.)
May 18th: March to Terminal 5
Protestors chanting “Shell No!” marched towards Terminal 5 over the Spokane Street Bridge, flanked on both sides by rows of Seattle Police on bicycles. Activists blockaded two entrances while listening to speakers and musicians and dancing to a DJ in the middle of the street.
June 5th: Luminary flotilla
Activists in kayaks, rowboats, and sailboats, joined for an after sunset float in Elliott Bay timed to celebrate World Environment Day. Entertainment was provided to the crowd on land and activists on the water by way of a concert stage on a floating barge, with the entire system powered by several solar panels — hence the name of the barge, the “Solar Pioneer.”
June 9th: Direct action blockade
Three activists used concrete-filled, 50-gallon drums to blockade the workers’ entrance to the rig while attaching themselves to it via armholes. Others blocked a side road that could be used to get rig workers through. The Raging Grannies continued their protest, causing SPD to bring out the power tools and begin clipping chains. Protesters blocked the entrance to Terminal 5 for approximately three hours before workers found a way in.
June 14th: Native voices rising
Members of the Idle No More movement held a “Native Women Rising” rally at Don Armeni Park in West Seattle. Activists joined in a circle for drumming and singing, native led prayer, and a reminded those listening about the importance of the Alaskan wilderness soon to be drilled by the rig docked in the distance.
June 15th: The Polar Pioneer leaves town
Activists hit the water at 4 a.m. in an attempt to stop or slow down Shell’s Arctic drilling rig as it moved through Elliott Bay. The U.S. Coast Guard began pulling activists and kayaks out of the water and they infringed upon a newly imposed 500 foot “safety zone.” One native canoe continued the chase until the Foss tugs pulling the Arctic drilling rig picked up speed and kayaks and canoes could no longer keep up.