The Shell Oil icebreaker MSV Fennica moved out of dry dock and Portland police closed traffic across the St. Johns Bridge on Thursday morning.
The moves sets the stage for a showdown involving Greenpeace protesters who are hanging from the bridge and floating on the Willamette River with the goal of blocking the ship from moving out of Portland.
7:25 a.m. UPDATE: The MSV Fennica, the Shell Oil icebreaker at the center of the protest, departed its dry dock at about 6 a.m. It headed north along the river before stopping about 300 yards from the St. Johns Bridge.
The icebreaker is accompanied by U.S. Coast Guard small vessels and Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office River patrol boats.
Onshore, Coast Guard officers, some armed, walked among the protesters and in the area of the boat ramp to the north of the bridge.
The number of kayaks and canoes floating in the center of the Willamette continues to increase. About 20 are in the river, with the number climbing.
7:15 a.m. UPDATE: Supporters of the Greenpeace protesters cheered and jeered as authorities announced through a public address system that they must leave the St. Johns Bridge.
On the boat ramp downstream of the bridge, “kayaktivists” hoping to block the ship’s departure took to the water in kayaks and canoes.
Above them, the 13 protesters dangling about 100 feet below the bridge roadway and the same distance above the Willamette River swung in the wind. They are tied to both the bridge and to each other, making it difficult for authorities to remove them one at a time.
6:55 a.m. UPDATE: Portland police used bullhorns to order protesters off the St. Johns Bridge.
Authorities told protesters at 6:45 a.m. that they were trespassing and in violation of a federal court injunction against Greenpeace USA.
“You are unwelcome and trespassing and must immediately depart from this area,” the recorded message said. It was repeated over and over again.
6:30 a.m. UPDATE: Thirteen protesters who affixed themselves to the St. Johns Bridge early Wednesday morning remained dangling from the bridge as the sun rose Thursday. At the same time, dozens of protesters in kayaks and canoes swarmed under the bridge to crowd the waterway and to support those above.
“The activists went to sleep last night really encouraged by the support of the movement,” Greenpeace spokeswoman Cassady Sharp said Thursday morning.
Sharp said the protesters were exhausted from being suspended on ropes and pulleys for more than 30 hours. Most, she said, used adult diapers to relieve themselves.
Each activist dangling from ropes on the bridge continued to fly long yellow or red banners while the support crews on the bridge’s deck above folded up sleeping bags and gear.