Posted by Sadie from ? (188.8.131.52) on Monday, January 27, 2003 at 11:35AM :
January 27, 2003
Greenpeace Activists Block Military Port in Iraq Protest
International pressure group Greenpeace today stepped up its campaign against war with Iraq by blocking a major UK military port, according to the charity.
At 9am today, Greenpeace's flagship Rainbow Warrior dropped anchor at Marchwood, Southampton, blocking the entrance to the military supply port.
As well as blockading the Hampshire harbour, two Greenpeace protesters have climbed aboard a military supply ship, according to a Greenpeace spokeswoman.
In the past two weeks the support arm of the Navy, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, has been despatching a fleet of ships loaded with tanks, helicopters and Royal Marines headed to the Gulf.
The nine RFA ships will be supporting the Royal Naval Task Group headed by the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal.
The Greenpeace spokeswoman said the aim of today's action is to disrupt the naval ships joining the military build-up in the Gulf.
She said: "Rainbow Warrior has blockaded the UK military port of Marchwood at Southampton.
"We want to cut the military supply chain to the war in Iraq.
"Day and night ships and containers have been loaded up with helicopters and tanks at Marchwood bound for the Gulf.
"We have got some Greenpeace climbers who have attached themselves to one of the supply vessels and Rainbow Warrior is anchored directly across the mouth of the military docks.
"This peaceful action is part of a global campaign to prevent a war that will kill hundreds of thousands of people and increase the chances of weapons of mass destruction being used.
"We want to stop this relentless rush towards a war which is basically placing a higher price on oil than blood."
The spokeswoman added that the Rainbow Warrior had a team of 25 protesters and Greenpeace intended to keep the ship in position at Marchwood as long as possible.
A protester was arrested today as he attempted to board a military supply ship, according to a Royal Navy spokesman.
At about 9am, military police detained the man after he climbed on the jetty at the Marchwood port.
But two other protesters managed to climb aboard two merchant ships leased by the Ministry of Defence as supply vessels.
One of the ships currently in dock is destined for the Falkland Islands, with the other due to join the Navy Task Group heading for the Gulf.
A Navy spokesman said the actions of Greenpeace had so far not disrupted the loading of the ships.
He added that Rainbow Warrior would not be allowed to delay the planned departure of the ships later today - but declined to say what action would be taken to stop the blockade.
The spokesman said: "One person was arrested by the military police and two others got on board the ship. One was on the top of a mast and the other was dangling over the side painting a slogan on the side of the ship.
"Nothing has been delayed so far, we are continuing with the operation. The loading has not been disrupted, it is continuing and it will not be prevented in any way.
"I cannot speculate on what Rainbow Warrior will do but if they decide to break the law then they will lay themselves open to arrest."
Police patrol boats despatched by both the civilian police and military police are patrolling the Rainbow Warrior today, according to a spokeswoman for Hampshire Police.
The spokeswoman said that at present no action had been taken against the campaign ship but the marine units, as well two patrol cars, were on stand-by.
The MoD today said responsibility for dealing with the blockade lay with the civil authorities.
A spokesman said: "Greenpeace, like any other lobby group, are able to demonstrate peacefully.
"But if they cause hindrance to operations or any other activity then the port authorities will need to take action.
"If they are breaking the law then civil authorities will take charge of it."
©2003 Associated New Media Limited
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