ANACORTES, Wash. -- Hundreds of 'kayaktivists' are preparing for a weekend of demonstrations in Skagit County.
Their goal is to block the flow of oil from two major refineries but that could also mean traffic jams and long ferry waits for everyone else.
Many protesters said they are willing to be arrested to make a statement against fossil fuels. Up to 2,000 people are expected to show up for the weekend-long demonstrations.
Organizer Margo Pollie arranged a crash course for about a dozen new kayakers on Friday afternoon.
On Saturday, thousands more are expected to join them in Fidalgo Bay.
“We need to show the moral urgency of climate change,” said Pollie. “We have a really small window to make changes. We need to stop fossil fuels and carbon emissions.”
Organizers said at least 500 protesters are ready to be arrested to make their message heard.
“We are here to save the world,” Pollie said.
Both the Tesoro and Shell oil refineries are the latest target for the activists.
Organizers said this weekend’s demonstrations could look similar to the Shell oil rig protests last summer in Seattle and Everett.
Roads into the refineries are already blocked off, but many protesters said they would take their message to the water.
Local police are getting help from state and federal agencies to make sure protests don’t get out of hand.
“We’re not expecting it but we’re certainly ready if it happens,” said Skagit County Sheriff Will Reichardt. “You have to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”
Officials are mostly concerned for the protesters' safety as currents in Fidalgo Bay are strong and the water is so cold that hypothermia is a real danger.
“People die on the water all the time just recreating,” said Commander Brian Meier with the U. S. Coast Guard. “We don’t want to see that happen.”
Emergency managers don’t plan to shut down busy SR 20 but many locals expect heavy traffic and possible long ferry lines in Anacortes.
Many residents told Q13 News they don’t mind peaceful protest but do worry about fringe groups looking to cause trouble.
“Just like in Seattle on May Day, others who want to play havoc sometimes follow them,” said resident Jeannie Gegen. “We’re hoping that doesn’t happen.”
Also of concern is a nearby area where herons are mating – and they are sensitive to disturbances. Police and activists said they plan to keep clear of the birds this weekend.