VIDEO: Here's What It's Like on the Willamette River with the "Kayaktivists" Blocking the Shell Oil Icebreaker

They're the talk of the town: the 13 Greenpeace activists who early this morning rappelled from the St. Johns Bridge in an attempt to block Shell Oil's icebreaking boat Fennica from leaving a Portland dry dock.

This afternoon, WW reporters joined about 20 "kayaktivists" who took to the Willamette River to support of the midair protesters.

WW took a boat ride with Bill Moyer, the executive director of the Seattle-based environmental group the Backbone Campaign, which is aiding the Greenpeace blockade.

"We really hit our groove here in Portland," Moyer says. "The David and Goliath story is so irresistible."

The protesters say they have no plans to leave their posts, and have so far been successful in preventing the rig's movement. The arctic rig was scheduled to depart at 5 this morning, but it has not budged from the dry dock at Vigor Industrial.

Backbone called for a flotilla of kayaks to keep the arctic rig from leaving the Pacific Northwest. At 5 am, kayakers chained themselves together under the St. Johns Bridge.

Moyer says they wanted to create a "moral conundrum" for the U.S. Coast Guard. With the kayakers and midair protesters in the way, the boat would not be able to safely travel on the Willamette River.

Throughout the afternoon, Backbone encouraged bystanders to borrow their kayaks and join the protest, even offering kayak safety training to those who were unfamiliar with the water. It also led chants from the shore, where onlookers gawked in Cathedral Park for much of the day.

Moyer attended Seattle University, where he was interested in music, but after 9/11, Moyer says he wasn't happy with the direction the country was headed. Enraged by the Bush administration, Moyer founded the Backbone Campaign in 2004. 

He says the group has radicalized from political organizing to direct action.

"It's not enough to go to the polls and vote anymore," Moyer says. "We need a strong social movement. Life is sacred, nature is sacred, our relationship with our community is sacred. And our obligation to future generations is sacred."

Photos of the protest on the Willamette River

All photos by Emily Volpert

WWeek 2015

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