Five members of the Seattle activist group the “Raging Grannies” were arrested by police Tuesday morning during a protest outside Terminal 5.
But it wasn’t easy.
The women, dressed in long skirts and sun hats and sipping from porcelain teacups, were bound together by so-called “sleeping dragons,” makeshift sleeves constructed with materials designed to make their removal difficult and time-consuming.
The “grannies” were part of two simultaneous protests against Shell’s offshore oil rig, which is at the terminal being prepared for Arctic drilling this summer.
While a group of younger protesters camped out on an overpass above, with two heavy oil drums and signs, the grannies chained their wooden rocking chairs together on the BNSF Railway tracks below. The women were also bound together by the homemade arm sleeves.
Seattle police Lt. Jim Arata warned the younger protesters that they had to move their oil drums and get off the overpass above Terminal 5, or face arrest. When the department’s Apparatus Response Team (ART) pulled up with a truck full of saws, jackhammers and other heavy-duty tools in case the protesters were chained to the oil drums, the protesters got up and walked away.
The five grannies, on the other hand, stayed put when the team arrived.
The department formed ART during Seattle’s 1999 WTO riots as a specialty team trained to safely remove protesters who chain themselves to objects or each other, Arata said.
ART members spent about 10 minutes sawing and cutting into two separate “sleeping dragons,” which linked the four “grannies” together by the arms.
Arata said that when police sawed through the duct tape-covered arm sleeves they found rope, rebar, metal and burlap. He said that police covered the grannies in fireproof blankets while they cut through the sleeves to protect them from flying debris.
“They’re meant to slow us down and defeat us,” Arata said about the sleeves.
While ART members worked, a nearby crowd of about 30 protesters chanted “rock on, grannies” and sang songs in support.
The five women — the oldest was 92 — were arrested for investigation of obstruction and pedestrian interference. They were processed and released from the department’s Southwest Precinct in West Seattle.
BNSF spokesman Gun Melonas said trains going through the area were held from 6:30 a.m. until around 10 a.m. because of the protest.
Southwest Precinct Capt. Pierre Davis the arrests “gave them [the grannies] a visual victory.” He said police were prepared for the two protests at Terminal 5 and had medics on scene in case there were any injuries.
Stina Janssen, a spokeswoman for the ShellNo! Action Council, which opposes Shell’s offshore Arctic oil-drilling fleet, said the protesters were trying to “block work Tuesday in order to stop Shell drilling’s oil rig from going out on time.”
Janssen said the grannies want to prevent Arctic drilling and keep “our planet inhabitable for future generations.”