Drama at Greenpeace

Captain Peter Henry Wilcox, USA. Activist Camila Speziale, Argentina. Crewman Colin Russell, Australia. Freelance videographer Kieron Bryan, Britain. These are a mere few of the thirty members of the international environmental organization Greenpeace who are currently being detained in Russia for alleged hooliganism. They face a possible seven years in prison due to an encounter with Russian authorities during a peaceful protest against the Arctic oil drilling that has begun to take place by the Russian oil giant, Gazprom. During the protest, one of Greenpeace’s ships, the Arctic Sunrise, was anchored off the Northwestern coast of Russia in free international waters, likely performing experiments on the Arctic environment using the top-of-the-line scientific equipment aboard their vessel. At the same time, however, two Greenpeace activists had embarked to a nearby Gazprom oil rig in a small speedboat. Their plan was to climb the massive rig and hang a huge banner with “Save the Arctic” written on it. Extreme, far reaching plans like these are common for many Greenpeace activists, and all seemed to be going as rehearsed until things took a drastic turn for the worse, leading to an aggressive encounter with authorities and to all thirty members of the Arctic Sunrise crew being detained in cold and dry individual cells.

A protest for the Arctic 30 activists in Madrid, Spain.

Before we get into the specifics of this dramatic new event in Greenpeace’s controversial legacy, however, let’s take a step back and take a glance a at the history behind one of today’s most pioneering, publicized, and world-changing environmental organizations; one that’s not afraid to put their own activists’ safety on the line for the sake of the planet and its precious, threatened species.

Greenpeace was founded by a few motivated activists who wanted to make a difference. In response to the United States’ underground nuclear tests near a risky earthquake-prone fault, they set sail in a small fishing boat to try to stop the testing. Although they were intercepted by authorities and the nuke was still set off, they had started a revolution, founding the worldwide organization we know today as Greenpeace, equipped with 2.8 million strong supporters and making a difference in our world every day through their strictly nonviolent protests.

A shocking event that truly turned heads towards Greenpeace and their relentlessness occurred in July 1985. French authorities were planning to test a nuclear bomb in the middle of the ocean, and Greenpeace was very public about doing all they could to stop it. However, before the Rainbow Warrior, Greenpeace’s ship at the time, could set sail and start the protest, the ship was blown out of the water, resulting in the death of one crewmember. Although the French government vehemently denied any culpability for the explosion, it is now confirmed that Paris had two bombs planted on the ship. As unbelievable as this event was, Greenpeace pushed through the struggle and continued to take risks in its peaceful activism, and they have not slowed down.

Now, Greenpeace is stuck in another dilemma; one that’s not exactly as life-threatening, yet still extremely important. It all started while the two courageous crew members climbing the oil rig were spotted. They were immediately targeted by fire hoses below and warning pistol shots were fired in their general direction. With no other choice, the two climbers fell back into the water, right into the hands of Russian authorities. These two unlucky activists were detained that night, with the rest of the crew joining them the following day. Initially, the activists, videographers, and crew members were denied bail and detained for alleged piracy. When told of the state of her father, Sarah Wilcox, daughter of the Captain of the Arctic Sunrise, said that “I would ask [the Russians] to open up a dictionary and read the definition of piracy.” Clearly, with much convincing from the supporters, the Russian authorities eventually agreed that these peaceful environmental activists were definitely not pirates.

Instead, the activists are now being held for alleged hooliganism. While hooliganism may sound like something a few naughty schoolchildren might receive a detention for, charges of hooliganism could realistically give these activists up to seven years in prison!

In conclusion, these peaceful environmental fighters need our support. I encourage you all to visit greenpeace.org and register for the online petition asking the Russians to release the people who are saving our planet. These brave souls who have devoted their lives to saving the environment do not deserve to spend the next seven years sitting in reportedly freezing, isolated cells with little outside exercise. Let’s do our part for these whistleblowers.

Sources

http://www.greenpeace.org/USA/en

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/18/us/greenpeace-captain-jailed/

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/31/world/europe/activists-feel-powerful-wrath-as-russia-guards-its-arctic-claims.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=greenpeace&

6 Comments

  1. Greenpeace violated lots of Russian laws and are criminals. As such, they are entitled to get consular support but we have to respect that local laws apply where Greenpeace committed their crimes.

  2. There is a lot more to this story that did not make it into the Greenpeace press releases that the media are using instead of doing real journalistic research.

    And this particular cruise is not unlike other Greenpeace skits, in that the intent to behave unlawfully and dangerously is a principal feature.

    In August, the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise was denied permission to enter Russian controlled sea lanes in the Arctic. Greenpeace determined that they would enter Russian controlled waters anyway, even if it was illegal. Their media releases indicated that they were quite proud of their breaking Russian law, revealing the arrogance that would soon bring about their undoing.

    Understandably, the Russian government, as other governments, does not appreciate the flouting of their maritime laws and the lawful orders of their authorities. The Russian Coast Guard asked repeatedly to board the Arctic Sunrise. Greenpeace denied the Russian requests. Any other Coast Guard would probably have simply boarded the vessel and arrested the captain.

    Since the Arctic Sunrise would not respond to a lawful order to leave Russian waters, the Russian Coast Guard informed the vessel that it would be fired upon (actually, warning shots were to be fired in front of the ship). Greenpeace finally departed the area, but was now guilty of failure to conduct itself according to the requirements of “innocent passage.” In other words, it had established its criminal behaviour, and Greenpeace publicly acknowledged that it had behaved unlawfully.

    During the following contacts with the Russians, the Arctic Sunrise was ordered by the Russian Coast Guard to stay clear of Russian supply vessels and other properties. Greenpeace again refused the Coast Guard orders. Greenpeace elected to continue to conduct itself in numerous violations of the prevailing law, and eventually the instruction was received to arrest the ship and its crew.

    A quick review of the laws of the nations from which the Arctic Sunrise crew was drawn indicates that the Greenpeace actions would be considered serious crimes within the jurisdictions of those nations as well. Greenpeace, having previously admitted to unlawful behaviour, now finds it convenient to insist otherwise.

  3. american terrorist says:

    why would anyone want to go to their website and support such a criminal group of law breaking people. you guys set yourself so high on the peddlestool thinking that you are untouchable!

    good for you! now face the consequences of your action and rot in a russian jail for 25 years! hahahaha……..
    have fun protesting inside there and see if you get an answer! hahahaha…..

    what will you be protesting now! let me out! let me out i did nothing wrong! i am greenpeace i can break any law as i choose!

  4. Russia has ignored principles regarding human rights, gay rights and environmental rights. Its a pathetic nation that jails those who look to protect our environment and jails those who protect the rights of gays citizens everywhere. Russia is a pathetic nation, with short term importance due to oil revenues that is running out, a population that is dropping because no-one wants to live there and an emperor Putin who thinks he looks good riding a horse bareback…..pathetic! End of story.

  5. Great article by the way……

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