This morning, activists announced a three-day-long "festival of resistance" against Shell's presence in Seattle between May 16 and May 18. Port commissioner Bill Bryant knew it was coming. The US Coast Guard knew it was coming. And now, local activists are putting out their call to the rest of the Pacific Northwest to join them.
A much-discussed flotilla of kayaks is formally scheduled for May 16, but actions will continue through the 18th, when protesters will "use nonviolent action to SHUT DOWN SHELL and all operations related to their Arctic expedition," according to the sHellNO.org website.
Local groups—including Bayan-USA Pacific Northwest, Rising Tide Seattle, 350 Seattle, Backbone Campaign, the Seattle Raging Grannies, Mosquito Fleet, and the Coalition for Port Accountability—have put together something called a Shell No! Action Council to coordinate the demonstration. They're also directly tying it to climate justice issues in the global south.
"We are taking action against Shell because we are fighting for the lives of people facing the brunt of climate change, in countries such the Philippines, Vanuatu, Maldives, and Tuvalu," Bayan-USA Pacific Northwest co-coordinator Katrina Pestaño said in a statement.
On Tuesday, the US Coast Guard announced that it would be establishing safety zones around Shell's Arctic drilling vessels, as well as designating a "First Amendment area" near Terminal 5. In response to news of the activists' civil disobedience plans, the Coast Guard's Lieutenant Dana Warr said that the agency will be primarily educating people on the safety zones (100 yards when the vessels are anchored or moored, and 500 yards when they're moving) as the ships come in.
"We've created a voluntary First Amendment zone which I think meets the needs to be close to T-5," Warr added. "By no means does that require anyone to be in it. But we felt from a safety perspective, after [meeting with stakeholder groups], that was the best place for them."
Yes, yes, we covered the First Amendment zone. But what about the civil disobedience part, which says nothing about staying within the boundaries of said zone?
"We respect everybody's rights to demonstrate, however there are civil or criminal penalties for violating the safety zones," he said. "But I don't know what their intentions are. So, hopefully the intentions are good, to activate their rights to actively demonstrate and not illegally enter the zones."
Reminder: The First Amendment zone is separate from the safety zone. The First Amendment zone is voluntary, and safety zones are not. A civil penalty for violating a safety zone can result in a $40,000 fine. Warr also explained by e-mail that criminal penalties, charged for "willful and knowing violation," can result in up to 10 years of jail time and/or a $125,000 fine.
None of that seems like it's enough to deter the activists from freely expressing. The release says that organizers expect hundreds of kayakers and boaters to show up. Rising Tide Seattle organizer Ahmed Gaya also emphasized the fact that the Port of Seattle's hasty, quiet decision to host the rigs in the first place involved minimal public process.
"The Port sold us out in a secret deal and Obama signed the lease on a new carbon bomb in the Arctic," Gaya said in a statement. "Politics as usual have failed. Its time to take mass direct action for our planet and our survival."