Two journalists, part of the 30 of the The Arctic Sunrise | Greenpeace International ship activists for Greenpeace traveling on a Greenpeace ship were arrested and charged with with piracy after two activists tried to scale an oil platform to hang a banner there in a protest of Arctic drilling last month, says the Russian Investigative Committee, according to the October 3, 2013 news article, “LIVE – Latest Updates from the Arctic Sunrise activists | Greenpeace.”
Greenpeace’s icebreaker has a colorful history. Before Greenpeace chartered the ship known as the Arctic Sunrise, it was used as a sealing vessel. If convicted of the charge, the 28 activists and two freelance journalists could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
Everyone on the Arctic Sunrise pleaded not guilty of piracy. And the activists come from at least 18 nations. The captain of the ship known as the Arctic Sunrise is American. His name is Peter Wilcox. Another defendant in the case of piracy leveled against the Greenpeace activists is Dmitry Litvinov, who Greenpeace says also holds Swedish citizenship, according to the article, “Russia Charges 30 Arrested for Greenpeace Protest With Piracy.”
Why did the Russians fire upon the Greepeace protesters and then arrest them and charge them with piracy?
The news reports say that the Greenpeace ship captain defies orders, and the Russians resort to towing. Everyone on the ship was arrested after two of the activists left the Arctic Sunrise. But the protestors didn’t fire on the Russian oil platform or threaten them. All they did was to try to climb the side of an oil platform owned by the Russian energy giant Gazprom in the Barents Sea on September 18, 2013. Does the scene remind any Americans of the Occupy Movement of two years ago at the University of California, Davis?
It’s a far cry from familiar American protests. Russia equates piracy with trying to hang a banner on an oil platform. But what did the message on the banner say that so irked the Russians that they charged the protestors (activists) from Greenpeace with the crime of piracy?
Is the crime deserving of up to 15 years in a Russian prison?
Or is it more like a misdemeanor charge of writing a graffiti slogan on a banner, not even painted on the wall of any structure? A banner can be taken down as soon as the ship goes away. And then there’s the fact that journalists and photographers were aboard the ship.
At that point of climbing uninvited on another ship is an act of piracy, at least to the Russians, but certainly not to others on the ship who had a peaceful message on their banner. It also could be said to be trespassing.
Piracy would be defined by some countries as climbing aboard the other person’s ship uninvited and not to save the life of a drowning person who fell overboard. But other countries might define piracy as not only climbing aboard another ship without being invited, but also firing upon the ship. The protestors protested verbally as they climbed on the Russian ship. They didn’t fire weapons at the Russian ship. See the news article, “Russia charges 30 with piracy in Greenpeace protest – CNN.com.”
The Russian coast guard detained the pair and then towed the ship to the northwestern Russian port city of Murmansk
In court the Greenpeace activists are going to have to prove that they were merely trying to hang a banner from the side of the rig in what the group called a peaceful protest against the “slow but unrelenting destruction of the Arctic.” Will the jury believe them? After all it’s a far cry from hanging a banner, which is more like graffiti (but easily removable) than compared to piracy, which is more like firing upon another ship which then is boarded by hostile pirates.
On one hand, the Russians accuse the protesters of attempting to commandeer the platform. But were the peaceful protestors putting anyone in danger as they have been accused of doing? Greenpeace does have its attorneys. Will Russia let the crew go? And why were the two journalists charged with the same crime of piracy rather than just observing and recording the news?
What’s behind the scenario is environmental concerns and how protesting is handled
The Greepeace activists can’t act in Russia like they do in the USA. They aren’t occupying an American campus or park in a peaceful protest. Russians may not like when environmentalists commit illegal acts. Neither do American industries want protesters hanging around their buildings or ships. What it’s going to come down to in court, if it gets to the stage where there’s a trial, is whether the safety of anyone, at least anyone on the Russian oil platform was endangered. Greepeace at least made sure journalists were aboard the ship to record what happened.
The activists climbed up on the oil platform not on a Russian ship. But the Greenpeace ship was the vehicle that got towed by the Russians, which created a safety endangering issue for the activists were were charged with committing a crime rather than hanging a banner that could have been removed later when the activists’ ship departed. Facing 15 years in prison is a lot more endangerment to the activists that hanging a banner on an oil platform might have been to the Russians. For more information, see the October 3, 2013 news article, “Greenpeace activists face 15 years in Russian jail for Arctic protest.”