The Seattle Port Hearing That Just Changed Everything
by Mark Smith
March 11, 2015
The beloved Raging Grannies, above, chose a musical approach to protest Shell’s presence in Seattle.
Show me what Democracy looks like!
This is what Democracy looks like!
Once heard ringing throughout downtown Seattle in 1999, this familiar rallying cry was on full display today at the Port of Seattles Commission meeting. And if democracy ever looked like anything, it was the public outcry at todays Port of Seattle Commission meeting.
I stood in a crowded in a room packed to the gills, with people even outside in the hallways! I counted at least 250 people. We had signs, buttons, t-shirts and wearing the color red, Seattle residents demanded an end to Arctic oil drilling. Why? Because the Port of Seattle made a backroom deal to host Shell Oils Arctic Destroyer Fleet this summer.
I testified at this same meeting two weeks ago and I have seen firsthand our movement grow from a few dozen to now hundreds of people calling for an end to Arctic drilling before it starts.
Were asking the Port of Seattle to rescind the lease that would allow Shell to park its fleet in Seattle and be the home base for Arctic drilling.
In its own Statement of Values, the Port of Seattle proclaims We are responsible stewards of community resources and the environment. The ports actions have instead shown us that their definition of responsible stewards means catering to Shells reckless scheme to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean.
Ive been an activist since my University of Pittsburgh college days back in the late 1980s. Ive seen passion and commitment. And at todays public hearing, it was on full display. Every environmental organization I could think of in Seattle had representatives and activists there to voice their concerns. One person who had never given public testimony was very nervous. Nevertheless he spoke through his shakes to make sure the port commissioners heard his voice. One student cut class to be there- I once did the same to attend protests in college. A small businesswoman who was standing nearme, took time out of her day to wait her turn to speak. And to keep it real, the Raging Grannies traveledto the meetingto fill the air with musical testimony, as did a 14-year-old ukulele player.
While the Commission standsby its decision that will affix Seattle to Shell, they learned today that we wont go away. And Shell knows this too.
Several activists pledged to try and stop Shell rigs if they enter the Port of Seattle; publicly declaring their willingness to paddle in front of Arctic destruction. People who had voted for the commissioners vowed to do so never again and even made clear they would vote for their opposition. Some activists made legal arguments, some just argued from a place of spirit and emotion. Passion was high and the Seattle community made it clear that if the Port does not act to rescind the lease, the people of Seattle will do everything in their power to stand in the way of Arctic drilling.
Several voices invoked the movement to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and it does seem as though a movement is growing in Seattle that will be the next chapter in our ongoing saga to stop the fossil fuel industry at every turn. Seattle is showing the rest of the country how we must fight every dirty energy project that rears its ugly head. We cannot simply say that it is somebody elses problem. If you are reading in Seattle and not engaged, get involved. Your voice is needed.
Find out more about how you can volunteer with Greenpeace or any number of the dozens of groups here organizing including 350 Seattle and Fuse Washington. If you are in my hometown of Pittsburgh (or really anywhere else for that matter), you can also get involved.