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Saturday, June 6, 2020

Flotilla embarks to support Western student harnessed to Arctic Challenger

The Coast Guard communicates with Chiara D'Angelo about work the crew of the Arctic Challenger wants to complete on Sunday, May 24, at Glass Beach. D'Angelo expressed her intentions to stay chained to the anchor until Monday. // Photo by Christina Becker
The Coast Guard communicates with Chiara D’Angelo about work the crew of the Arctic Challenger wants to complete on Sunday, May 24, at Glass Beach. D’Angelo expressed her intentions to stay chained to the anchor until Monday. // Photo by Christina Becker

With a steady stream of Ski-To-Sea competitors moving across Bellingham Bay in the distance, Zorna Joshi spoke to about 125 anti-oil activists gathered at Cornwall Beach. Some were preparing to launch a flotilla of kayaks and other small craft to protest Shell Oil’s proposed arctic drilling exploration.

As the Western Front previously reported, the group coordinated a similar protest Thursday, May 21, before Western Washington University student Chiara D’Angelo attached herself to the anchor chain of the Arctic Challenger, one of the vessels in Shell’s arctic fleet moored in the bay.

Joshi, an activist from Seattle and friend of D’Angelo, spoke to the group about the importance of showing support and solidarity for D’Angelo, who has been in position since approximately 7 p.m., Friday, May 22.

A delegation from the Lummi Nation and the Northwest Indian College also spoke in support of the movement. Finally, three sisters from the Lummi Nation Billie, Danielle and Katherine Jefferson, sang before the flotilla left the beach at about 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 24.

Paul Adler, who arrived from Shoreline to join the flotilla after being a part of the May 16 anti-Shell protest in Seattle, outlined safety precautions to protesters before launch and interacted with the Coast Guard once in the water.

“I’ve had a lot of interaction with the Coast Guard. I would say that while they’re for the most part professional, it’s been quite challenging,” Adler said. “The rules, in my opinion, changed at different times during the ongoing situation.”

Adler was not aware of any citations being given to protesters by the coast guard during the flotilla Sunday. However, the Coast Guard had given four previous citations to boats moving within 100 yards of the Arctic Challenger.

Most of the approximately 30 kayaks that went into the water were back on the beach by 7:30 p.m.

“Everyone went out there feeling really energized,” Joshi said after the return of the flotilla. “They saw Chiara out there, they saw Chiara talking with the Coast Guard, negotiating. It was a powerful moment. Everyone came back feeling amazing.”

Joshi said there was no timetable for when D’Angelo would come off the anchor.

On Cornwall beach, as protesters prepared to camp out another night, discussion focused on D’Angelo and whether she had adequate supplies to spend another night on the anchor.

In addition to the flotilla, sHell No!’s Bellingham chapter sponsored a team in the Ski-to-Sea race that passed a caribou horn from competitor to competitor to raise awareness for Shell’s arctic wildlife. The team placed 192nd overall.

As the crowd thinned Sunday night, protesters discussed an early-morning paddle to D’Angelo.

“I am so inspired what she’s doing. What she’s showing is that direct action works. What she’s showing is that all it takes is courage and conviction and love to actually do something so incredible that you can galvanize an entire movement,” Joshi said. “All over the world, people are talking about this.”

The Western Front has reached out to Shell, but has yet to receive a response regarding the situation.

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