by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York
Yesterday, Greenpeace activists staged a protest to highlight the fact that even now, as federal authorities are helpless to stop millions of gallons oil from gushing out of the Gulf of Mexico, offshore drilling is scheduled to continue in Alaskan waters. Seven Greenpeace members boarded the very ship that’s heading north in July to oversee drilling operations, and wrote ‘Arctic Next’ on the hull in oil spilled from the Deepwater Horizon. They’ve all been charged with felonies.
All seven have been slapped with the felony charges of Unauthorized Entry of a Critical Infrastructure and Unauthorized Entry of an Inhabited Dwelling. The protest was staged to coincide with the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s visit to Louisiana’s oil-impacted region to assess the damage. Salazar has said he will decide by this Friday whether or not the Alaskan Arctic waters will be opened to offshore drilling.
Responding to the arrests, Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford gave the following statement:
“Charging these activists with felonies is a disproportionate response to the peaceful protest that took place today at Port Fourchon. It is outrageous that prosecutors would confront peaceful protestors with such a heavy hand while not a single BP executive has been charged for the devastation they have wrought on the gulf of Mexico and the people and animals that depend on it. Charge BP, not Greenpeace activists.
The man has a point — to me, these arrests illustrate an absurd contrast: a negligent, reckless company has done untold damage to the environment, wrecked numerous livelihoods and is responsible for the deaths of 11 people. But Greenpeace activists who write slogans on boats have to go to jail.
Besides that, the activists’ message is an important one to consider: despite all Obama’s talk of a moratorium on offshore drilling, permits are still being issued, or are in line to be issued soon. Unless Salazar forbids it, the ship the activists wrote on will be overseeing exploratory drilling off the Alaskan coast in two months. I hope the Greenpeace protest will help bring this to light — and underscores what a mistake this would be right now.