Last Saturday, the ecologically pristine area around the Canary Islands was the watery stage of the next chapter in the story of the Arctic Sunrise. Last year, she carried Greenpeace activists across icy waters North of Russia, where they protested against a Gazprom oil rig. For this act of courage, they were imprisoned by the Russian Authorities for four months, before being released at the end of December.
The Artic Sunrise, however, was held for much, much longer in Murmansk, Russia – finally arriving at her home port in Amsterdam a couple of months ago.
Over this past weekend she again held her ground within sight of a Repsol drill site, where the oil giant was preparing to soil the clear waters off the coast of the Spanish islands of Lanzarote and Fuertenventura.
The Spanish navy did not like this and lashed out with extreme and dangerous aggression.
The peaceful protest – something which Greenpeace has been engaging in for 40 years – turned ugly as the Spanish navy repeatedly rammed our inflatables, injuring two activists, one of whom was thrown into the water, breaking her leg.
The injured activist was airlifted to a nearby hospital and the Arctic Sunrise returned her damaged inflatables to her deck.
Despite this, the arrival of our ship and her crew to the port of Arrecife on the island of Lanzarote was a joyous one. The reception by the local community was resoundingly cheerful and welcoming. The fight to keep their ecologically robust waters free from big oil companies was, after all, the same fight which the Arctic Sunrise had undertaken that weekend.
But the story of the Arctic Sunrise would turn dark again. The Spanish government, in stark contrast to the warm reception of the Spanish people, supported its military and by proxy, Repsol, and detained the Arctic Sunrise where she berthed. The Government of Spain’s justification was that they wanted to hold her while they investigate the events of the previous Saturday.
Simply put, the detention of the Arctic Sunrise, after their navy’s unnecessary and reckless attack on peaceful protestors, flies in the face of reason. But, when oil companies are in bed with governments, reason – as we see again and again – flies out of the window.
This is not the end of the story of Arctic Sunrise, far from it. As the world heard us last year, they will hear us again. Make no mistake.
Arin de Hoog is the interim head of news at Greenpeace International.
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