When I think about art I think of it as an expression of ones ideals, beliefs or viewpoints. By this definition one can consider protesting as a form of art because it is taking action to support a certain belief. Peaceful protesting has continuously been utilized throughout our history to make cultural changes and change the ethics and actions of big corporations. Over the summer the Shell Oil corporation in an attempt to leave the Port of Portland (Oregon) to research drilling oil for larger drilling projects up in Alaska was stopped by a group of Greenpeace protestors. The question in this story is whether or not the protesters were the criminals or the city’s police in the way that they handled the situation.
The Greenpeace protesters started their protest by making a human blockade to stop the ship from leaving the harbor. Not only did they use kayaks to block the water but they even took to the air. Utilizing the St. John’s bridge thirteen protestors dangled for over forty hours hundreds of feet above the water tethered to nothing but each other in an attempt to stop Shell from drilling in the arctic. The affect these protesters had on the cause was astronomical. The hashtags #shellno and #gotohellwithshell began to surface on the internet and their fame and support grew with each hour they hung. Their support expanded from the City of Portland to national and articles were written by not only The Oregonian, but The LA Times as well. Their dramatic statement worked initially and forced Shell to dock their ship in a standstill. This quickly changed because of Shell’s power and money. Shell was outraged because they were losing millions of dollars per hour that the protesters hung and with money comes power and Shell was able to get the police and the Coast Guard on their side. The surprising aspect of this was that the police said that the protesters health was their number one concern but in order to get the protestors down, they cut the safety lines between the protestors to force them to come down. After the police cut their safety lines the protestors had no other option but to stop hanging because of the danger they were in. Also, after nine of the protestors were cut down the Coast Guard allowed Shell to maneuver in the thin slit between the remaining protestors in order to leave the harbor which was extremely hasty and threatening to the remaining hangers. The protestors were put in danger by Shell, the authorities and the money that shell has. Shell also sued Greenpeace and they were forced to pay $2,500 per hour that they held up Shell just for stating their beliefs. They had to pay Shell for causing absolutely no harm or negative affects!
Although the protestors were protesting something that has no affect on Portland; Portland felt the effects of the ordeal. Locals gathered in the nearby Cathedral Park to cheer on the protestors and the entire bridge was shutdown during rush hour traffic. It is inspiring to see that an issue that is so far away from home can still be taken to heart by citizens of the city because they know that Shell is in the wrong. We live in a society that dreads inconvenience and to see people support something that is an inconvenience means that they really hold the cause true to their heart.
The exciting thing is that their efforts did not go completely in vain. The Obama administration created limitations on Shell’s drilling rights in order to protect the safety of the environment. So although the protesters did not get what they wanted (completely stop the drilling), they did protect the environment by gaining rights for an entity that cannot gains rights for itself. The most ironic aspect of this story is that after all the hullabaloo Shell was not pleased with the amount of oil in the Arctic region in which they were drilling and they defunded the project altogether.
The power of corporations in America is obscene and as seen in the example above, protesting can be used as a way to check their influence. Protesting has extreme power in its ability to create change, check power, and open the eyes of the general public to create change. Protesting is often seen as a crime but I think if done peacefully and respectfully there is no reason for the protestors to be punished. In fact, most cases of protest the law enforcement are doing most of the damage and damaging other individuals is the real crime against humanity. It is not a matter of if the actions of protestors are criminal or not, it is if their cause is true and pure they should be taken seriously and respected and individual human beings.
To read the entire play-by-play of the protest go to the following website: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/07/greenpeace_protest_icebreaker.html