By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan
It has been more than 15 years since tear gas filled the streets of Seattle and tens of thousands of people protested the meeting of the World Trade Organization, or WTO. That week of protests in late 1999 became known as “The Battle of Seattle,” as the grass-roots organizers successfully blocked world leaders, government trade ministers and corporate executives from meeting to sign a global trade deal that many called deeply undemocratic, harming workers’ rights, the environment and indigenous people globally.
A new Battle of Seattle has been raging in recent weeks, pitting a broad coalition of people against a multinational corporate behemoth, Shell Oil. Citizens and elected officials alike, concerned about Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic, swarmed the waters around Seattle, trying to block the massive oil-drilling platform, Polar Pioneer, from leaving on its journey to the Arctic. As fossil-fuel corporations intensify their exploitation of the world’s oil, protesters, as well as the pope, are weighing in as never before about the catastrophic effects of climate change.
The Polar Pioneer arrived in Puget Sound in mid-May in preparation for its trip to the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic Ocean. Royal Dutch Shell has the vessel under contract from Transocean, the same company whose Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused the blowout and oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico five years ago. As the platform was tugged into the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5, the first wave of the “Mosquito Fleet” paddled out to block it. The protest flotilla is made up of “kayaktivists,” people in small kayaks that establish a blockade, much like the protesters in 1999 linked arms on the rainy streets of Seattle to block the delegates attempting to attend the WTO Ministerial Conference.