Anti-Drilling Protesters to Dangle From Oregon Bridge Indefinitely

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Greenpeace Protesters Block Shell's Icebreaker
Photo: John Rudoff / Demotix/Copyright 2015 Demotix, all rights reserved.

Environmentalists claimed a small victory over the oil industry on Thursday, when protesters prevented an icebreaker from leaving an Oregon harbor. After undergoing repairs in Portland, the vessel, known as Fennica, was supposed to sail down the Willamette River on its way to a recently approved Shell drilling site in the Arctic. But Fennica was forced to turn around at 8 a.m. after encountering 13 Greenpeace activists dangling from the St. John’s Bridge, which spans the Willamette. 

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Portland, United States. 29th July 2015 -- Portland, Oregon, 29 July 2015: Four demonstrators out of 13 are seen suspended in climbing harnesses from the bridge. -- A protest organized by Greenpeace and its supporters rappelled off the St. John's Bridge in north Portland to block Shell's icebreaker MSV Fennica from returning to Arctic service.Photo: John Rudoff / Demotix/Copyright 2015 Demotix, all rights reserved.

Though the Coast Guard and the police have ordered the demonstrators off the bridge, no one has tried to physically remove them. “It’s a very complicated situation. This is not a simple trespass on somebody’s lawn,” said an Oregon Department of Transportation spokesperson. “Lives are at stake here. Federal, state and local authorities are all involved.” The Seattle Times reports that Shell’s drilling cannot begin until Fennica arrives.

The activists, who began the demonstration early Wednesday morning, are equipped with food, water, cell phones, and no immediate plans to leave: “Environmentalists hope to delay the ship long enough for winter weather to prevent Shell from drilling until 2016,” reports the Associated Press. “By that time, they hope the Obama administration has a change of heart on the issue.” Meanwhile, a federal judge has ordered Greenpeace to pay a fine of $2,500 for every hour Fennica is delayed. The hourly fine is set to rise to $5,000 on Friday, $7,500 on Saturday, and $10,000 on Sunday, according to the AP.

Unsurprisingly, some of the folks hanging off the bridge are keeping in touch with the outside world via social media. Their position looks pretty terrifying, but they seem to be enjoying it: