March at Terminal 5 stays festive

Crosscut archive image.

Protesters outside Terminal 5 during a demonstration against Shell's oil ships in Seattle.

Early Monday, some 500 to 600 protesters marched from Spokane Street under the West Seattle Bridge to the entrance of Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle. Their purpose: to engage in “direct action” and shut down all operations associated with Shell’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig.

The march marked the end of the weekend-long Festival of Resistance that began with Saturday’s water-based protest, the Paddle in Seattle, and the ShellNO protest website advised Monday's protesters to be prepared for arrests.

“We will need to stand in nonviolent actions as long as we need to,” said Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who attended the demonstration. “If there are arrests, that’s the SPD’s decision.” Protester Rich Voget of Wallingford said Monday’s protest was to show the Port of Seattle that “we’re really serious instead of just splashing around in the water.”

As it turned out, no arrests were made.

At one point in the morning, as protesters approached the port, Seattle Police Officers formed a blockade in front of the entrance to Terminal 5. Protesters seemed satisfied to stand just outside of the gates, obstructing traffic trying to enter the gates. Voget said they wanted to be present during shift changes, both to disrupt operations and to communicate directly with port workers.

Despite rumors among demonstrators that they had successfully turned away workers trying to get to the terminal, Port of Seattle communications director Peter McGraw said that was not the case. In fact, it appears protesters succeeded in their goal of disrupting operations before even arriving Monday morning. McGraw said the port decided last week to run only “minimal operations “ at Terminal 5 on Monday. So, most workers never came in the first place.

Shell's enormous piece of drilling equipment, an obvious new addition to the red cranes on Harbor Island, came to Terminal 5 last Thursday. It arrived despite the Department of Planning and Development’s ruling that, as a “cargo facility,” Terminal 5 is not permitted to house the rig. However, according to Mayor Ed Murray’s communication director Viet Shelton, the penalty against Shell is only $100 to $500 a day – not enough to deter the multi-national oil company. Both the port and Foss Maritime have appealed the city’s ruling that Terminal 5 needs a new permit.

Monday was the largest police presence since Councilmember Bruce Harrell called SPD tactics “idiotic.” And while officers in riot gear hid behind port facilities, Seattle Police Detective Patrick Michaud called Monday a “totally different kind of protest. You can’t even compare it to May 1.”

Indeed, unlike the tale end of the May 1 demonstrations that featured black bandanas, Monday's activities brought colorful signs, a live DJ and songs from the Raging Grannies – Seattle’s elder environmental activists. Police were seen chatting in groups, their helmets off and bikes abandoned.

Katrina Pestano of Bayan PNW, one of the groups helping with protest organization, told Crosscut’s Martha Baskin that protests will continue in the weeks to follow.

As the scene developed at Terminal 5, Police Detective Michaud said, "If the protestors say they want to be arrested, we'll help them....When they’re done, if they don’t want to move, we’ll put them in handcuffs and take them to the precinct.”

Protestors stayed at the port until mid-afternoon before marching back the way they came, promising that there were more protests to come.


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David Kroman

David Kroman

David Kroman is formerly a reporter at Crosscut, where he covered city politics.