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Hundreds Of 'Kayaktivists' In Seattle Protest Shell's Arctic Drilling


Whatever you think of the underlying issue, this form of protest sounds kind of fun. Some people in Seattle are unhappy their port is being used as a base. It was a stopping point for a floating oil rig that Shell is taking to the waters off Alaska's coast. So protesters went after the drilling rig in kayaks. John Ryan reports from member station KUOW.

JOHN RYAN, BYLINE: In some ways, this protest was a lot like any other with banners everywhere. Messages included climate justice and Shell, no.


RYAN: But here's a sound you don't hear at the usual Seattle protest march.


RYAN: That's hundreds of people banging their paddles against their boats. Their kayaks and canoes and paddleboards are densely clustered next to the Polar Pioneer drill rig. It arrived on Thursday.

DANA SCHUERHOLZ: I'm out here because I want to vote with my feet or my paddle today, I guess.

RYAN: Dana Schuerholz teaches elementary school on an island just west of Seattle.

SCHUERHOLZ: All science points to the fact that oil is an archaic technology at this point. It's not a sustainable technology to further invest in.

RYAN: They call themselves kayaktivists. They're concerned about global climate change and the risk of an oil spill in the remote and icy Arctic Ocean. Seattle's mayor and the Port of Seattle have said the Polar Pioneer rig doesn't have proper permits to dock here. Shell brought it here anyway. The company plans to keep its rigs in Seattle except during drilling season in the brief Arctic summer. Seattle city councilman Mike O'Brien was out on the water in his little orange kayak. The Polar Pioneer towered above. It's half as tall as the Seattle Space Needle.

MIKE O'BRIEN: The only way this thing comes into compliance is by leaving.

RYAN: Shell's contractor has appealed the city's permit ruling. So far, the company has invested about $7 billion looking for oil in the Arctic Ocean. It expects to find decades worth of oil there. Saturday's protest was festive, but protesters vowed to be more confrontational today. They aim to shut down work on the rig with many planning to be arrested. In an email, a Shell spokesman said the company respects the choice to protest. It just asks that protesters do so safely and within the boundaries of the law. For NPR News, I'm John Ryan in Seattle. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.