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Western student chains self to Shell oil vessel in Bellingham Bay

Western student Chiara D’Angelo protests Shell Oil Company's plans to drill in the arctic after chaining herself to the Arctic Challenger on Friday, May 22, in Bellingham Bay. // Photo courtesy of Reese Semanko

Update, 11:50 a.m., Monday, May 25: Western student Chiara D'Angelo descended from the anchor of the Arctic Challenger this morning after spending 63 hours harnessed to the vessel and was taken to the Coast Guard station. She has since been released and has returned to the activists' base camp on Cornwall Beach. Update, 10 p.m., Sunday, May 24: A flotilla of anti-oil activists in kayaks and boats launched into Bellingham Bay during Ski-to-Sea to support Western student Chiara D'Angelo and protest Shell's planned arctic drilling. D'Angelo plans to spend a third night harnessed to the anchor of the Arctic Challenger, a support vessel in Shell's oil drilling fleet, after more than 50 hours since beginning her protest. Update, 9 a.m., Sunday, May 24: Activist Matt Fuller came down from his position harnessed to the Arctic Challenger vessel at approximately 8 a.m. on Sunday, May 24, after 24 hours in place, said Zarna Joshi, member of the sHell No! Action Council and Rising Tide Seattle. Fuller came down willingly, and after being cited for trespass by Bellingham Police Department, he was released by the Coast Guard and returned to shore, Joshi said. He is remaining nearby to continue to show support for the movement. Western student and fellow activist Chiara D’Angelo remained harnessed to the Challenger, now more than 36 hours after securing herself to the ship’s anchor chain at approximately 7 p.m. on Friday, May 22. When Fuller was detached, D’Anglo was admiring sea life appearing nearby in the bay, taking it as a response from the earth for their actions protesting oil drilling in the arctic, Joshi said. On-shore activists are maintaining a home base at Cornwall beach and preparing for a Festival of Resistance flotilla to take place at 4 p.m. Sunday, which will coincide with the day’s Ski-to-Sea events. Update, 4:36 p.m., Saturday, May 23:  The Western Front has obtained an interview with Chiara D'Angelo and Matt Fuller that can be viewed here. Update, 10:45 a.m., Saturday, May 23: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class Katelyn Shearer confirmed the well-being of Western student Chiara D'Angelo and Evergreen State College student Matt Fuller, the two protesters still harnessed to the Arctic Challenger. Shearer said the Coast Guard plans to continue to monitor the situation for the safety of the protesters. The protesters have been communicating with Bellingham Police Department, police spokesman Lt. Bob Vander Yacht said. The activists are not expected to disrupt Ski to Sea, as the Arctic Challenger is not located near the kayak portion of the race route, he said. "At this point, we are taking on a wait-and-see kind of attitude," Vander Yacht said. "We will continue to work with the entities involved and we’re not making any decisions that are knee-jerk or rash." Update, 9:10 a.m., Saturday, May 23: At approximately 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 23, activist Cody Erdman was replaced with Evergreen State College student Matt Fuller in position harnessed to the Arctic Challenger, said Reese Semanko, an Evergeen student and photographer who has been taking photos for the activists. Additional supplies were also brought to Fuller and D’Angelo, including 2x4 boards to be used as benches, Semanko said. Update, 1:44 a.m., Saturday, May 23: Bellingham community member Cody Erdman has now joined Western student Chiara D’Angelo on the Arctic Challenger. Two activist support vessels floating nearby were removed by the Coast Guard for safety violations, and one activist was cited for breaking a 100-yard distance rule, Western instructor and activist Jill MacIntyre Witt said in an email. Original article continues below: Western Washington University student and activist Chiara D’Angelo boarded the Shell Oil Company vessel Arctic Challenger in Bellingham Bay and fastened herself to the vessel’s anchor chain at between 6 and 7 p.m. on Friday, May 22, to protest the company’s planned arctic drilling. Around 30 protesters gathered at Cornwall Avenue and Magnolia Street for a vigil, speeches and a march to rally against Shell’s presence in the arctic. The group arrived at the bay a few hours later and sailed to the Challenger in an attempt to prevent the vessel from leaving. During this time, D’Angelo made her way aboard and secured herself to the barge. Coast Guard and Shell vessels responded to the act, attempting to talk D’Angelo down from her position. “I think we need to do what we have to do, the fact that involved a trespass on the boat is just a minor element of the situation,” activist Herb Goodwin said. Other protesters remained onshore to gather food and supplies to take to D’Angelo, Goodwin said. Plans were announced for her to remain chained to the vessel until at least 4 a.m. on Saturday, May 23. Western student and activist Juliana Fischer said she and other protesters have volunteered to take D’Angelo’s place to continue the protest as long as possible. The Western Front will update this story as more information becomes available. [gallery size="medium" type="slideshow" ids="1710,1707,1705,1709,1713,1711"]

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