PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) – According to an activist group, 26 climbers have used ropes to rappel over the St. Johns Bridge to block Shell’s Arctic icebreaker vessel.
The vessel is expected to pass under the bridge sometime on Wednesday.
Greenpeace tells KOIN 6 News that 13 people have secured themselves in place suspended from the bridge with enough supplies to last for days. The other 13 people are acting as look out and safety teams for the climbers under the bridge.
“They are standing in the way of Shell being about to go up and drill in the Artic,” Mary Nichol, the event coordinator tells KOIN.
“If Shell is able to drill in the Artic it would be an absolute disaster.”
Protester Luke Strandquist tells KOIN the protest is a once in a lifetime chance to make a difference.
“We have very clear intentions today…my intention is to be a physical block to the Fennica and keep Shell from drilling in the Artic,” Strandquist says.
“We’re all pretty experienced climbers,” he explains. He says some of the climbers have hammocks, while other have platforms and some are just on chairs.
Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson, a police spokesperson, says the agency is monitoring the situation. The St. Johns Bridge is closed to pedestrian traffic.
Vehicle traffic is being allowed to cross the bridge, however, police are warning drivers not to stop, or they could face citations or arrests.
Simpson says the Portland Police Rapid Response Team is on the scene and is specially trained to handle protesters and large crowds, but don’t intend to remove the protesters.
“They are experienced climbers. And safety is definitely our number one priority,” Nichols, the coordinator, says. “The climbers are prepared to stay here for as long as they can.”
Simpson says that when the people come off the bridge, the bureau will look into charges of trespassing.
Lt. Steve Alexander, a spokesperson with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the River Patrol Unit, says MCSO crews are on scene and helping. He says the agency will not take action unless someone hits the water and needs to be rescued.
The United States Coast Guard, which is in charge of vessel traffic, is monitoring the situation.
ODOT Spokesperson Don Hamilton tells KOIN that from what they can tell, the protesters have set up their rope systems “professionally” and it does not appear to be damaging the bridge.
The Royal Dutch Shell PLC icebreaker Fennica arrived in Portland for repairs after it was damaged this month in the Aleutian Islands when it struck an underwater obstruction, tearing a gash in its hull.
“The only reason they are here in Portland is because of their own incompetence,” Nichol says.