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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Western student returns to land after three nights on Arctic Challenger anchor chain

Western student Chiara D’Angelo returns to Cornwall Beach to greet fellow activists after 63 hours harnessed to the Arctic Challenger’s anchor chain. // Photo by Libby Keller

Activists chanted and cheered along Cornwall Beach as Western Washington University student Chiara D’Angelo returned to land after spending 63 hours harnessed to the anchor chain of the Arctic Challenger, a Shell Oil Company drilling support vessel, in Bellingham Bay.

“I thought maybe five hours, maybe six hours up there and then I’d be done,” D’Angelo said of her initial plans when she climbed aboard the vessel on Friday, May 22, to protest Shell’s planned arctic drilling.

At approximately 9:30 a.m., D’Angelo made the decision to leave her position on the Shell Oil vessel after hearing from the Coast Guard that the barge would be unable to leave the bay for at least a few more days while acquiring the proper permits.

Lt. Dana Warr of the Coast Guard said D’Angelo began talking about coming down the previous night, and was removed Monday morning without difficulty.

“At the end of the day, we’re excited no one got hurt, and that was our purpose for being there,” Warr said. “Our priority was that everyone was safe, and that is how the situation played out.”

D’Angelo was issued a citation for misdemeanor trespass by the Bellingham Police Department when she returned to shore, but felt it was a small price to pay for her accomplishment.

She and a group of fellow activists then marched from the Coast Guard station to the movement’s home base on Cornwall beach, where D’Angelo was welcomed back with chants, hugs and warm food

“People are inspired,” activist media liaison Rob Lewis said. “She’s a force of nature.”

D’Angelo began her feat with the help of three other Western students, Lewis said. Together they rode out to the Challenger on a paddleboat, from which D’Angelo was able to maneuver herself onto the anchor chain.

She was later joined by fellow activist Cody Erdman, who stayed with her on the chain for approximately 7 hours. Erdman was then replaced by Matt Fuller, who spent approximately 24 hours harnessed to the Challenger with D’Angelo.

During the protest, the Coast Guard initiated a 100-yard perimeter around D’Angelo’s position on the chain and issued citations to any vessels that violated it. Despite this, D’Angelo said her interactions with the Coast Guard remained positive throughout her experience.

While there are no current plans for future action, D’Angelo said whatever steps that will be taken will be enjoyable and decided upon by the entire group of activists.

The Western Front’s previous coverage of this story can be viewed here, as well as an interview with D’Angelo and Fuller from aboard the Arctic Challenger here.

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