What's a multibillion-dollar energy giant to do when 13 mean activists in hammocks block its ship from pressing Arctic plunder? Ask the courts for help, apparently.
After Shell Oil's ship the Fennica was forced back into dry dock this morning by the Greenpeace activists who've been hanging from the St. Johns Bridge since early Wednesday, the company hurriedly pressed a judge to hit the activist organization in the wallet.
Since April, Shell's had a case [pdf] against Greenpeace making its way through an Alaskan federal court. It gripes about "interference with and irreparable harm to" Shell's Arctic exploration fleet, and it's led a judge to issue an injunction against Greenpeace.
After being stymied by activists' creativity this morning, Shell summoned its Seattle lawyers to file an emergency motion [pdf]. The company wants Greenpeace fined $250,000 a day "until the blockage is lifted." Here's a salient portion.
According to the Associated Press Judge Sharon L. Gleason has agreed to fine Greenpeace $2,500 an hour for the protest. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has also reached out to Mayor Charlie Hales and Gov. Kate Brown for their help in stopping the stand-off. This is a big deal.
Brown issued a statement this morning via email through her press secretary, Melissa Navas.
"The Governor shares concerns expressed publicly on the protesters’ safety, which is why it is important to abide by all applicable ordinances and laws when considering ways to express one’s opinions or objections," Navas wrote to the Mercury.
Hales' office, which has been in extensive contact with the governor's office, US Coast Guard, state police, and others, is offering pretty much the same line. Spokesman Dana Haynes says three competing factors are at play (in descending importance): Public safety, First Amendment rights, and "right for businesses to use the navigable channels."
Haynes says the Coast Guard's been running point on response to the protest, and that Portland Police will help dismantle the thing if called upon. We asked how that squares with the mayor's recent trip to the Vatican, where he met with the pope about the serious threat of climate change.
"If you break the law you break the law," Haynes says. "You can't not enforce that law. How every one of us feels about the end goal of stopping Arctic drilling, that’s not the issue that faces Portland today."
Yesterday afternoon, Chris Fountain, an activist with Portland Rising Tide, said a Shell spokesperson told her, "We respect the right to protest but the Fennica will move when it's ready."
And move it did around 6 a.m. on Thursday. In reaction, the 13 protesters dangling beneath the bridge lowered their platforms and dozens of kayaktivists took to the water as helicopters swarmed the skies above. Mary Nicol, a spokesperson for Greenpeace reported yesterday that the rappellers have several days worth of supplies with them and plan to block the Fennica from leaving Portland for as long as they can.
It looks like that might be a while, considering the amount of support at Cathedral Park. There's been a constant stream of food and beverage donations, and after the ship's morning U-turn, protesters' spirits were high and they seem to have no intentions of letting the ice breaker get past.
Portland Police are on the bridge and also have a heavy presence at Cathedral Park. Thursday morning they'd closed the parking lot to cars, ostensibly to keep it empty for emergency vehicles, but protesters quickly put a stop to that. In the water, the Multnomah County Sheriff have boats and personal watercrafts patrolling the area, as does Oregon State Police. No protesters had been detained earlier this morning.
UPDATE, 1:36 pm: In an order Judge Gleason signed today, there's actually a schedule of escalating fines for Greenpeace, should the activists stay on the bridge. Here it is:
• From 10 AM, July 30, 2015 to 10 AM, July 31, 2015, $2,500 for each full hour in contempt;
•From 10 AM, July 31, 2015 to 10 AM, August 1, 2015, $5,000 for each full
hour in contempt;
•From 10 AM, August 1, 2015 to 10 AM, August 2, 2015, $7,500 for each full hour in contempt;
•$10,000 for each full hour in contempt after 10 AM, August 2, 2015.
Sanctions accrued as a result of this Order shall be paid by Greenpeace, Inc. to Plaintiffs Shell Offshore, Inc. and Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc.