- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2003

Environmental activists have gone beyond sign-waving and marches to protest the looming U.S.-led war against Iraq and are now seeking to interfere with the military buildup overseas.
Lead by Greenpeace, dozens of activists were arrested this week for blocking ships in two ports that were contracted by the United States to transport military equipment to the Persian Gulf, where American forces are gathering for a possible strike to disarm Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
A broad coalition of environmental groups has come together to protest military action against Iraq. Many "green" groups were prominent in the anti-war protests that occurred across the United States and the world last weekend.
On Thursday, Dutch police took 20 protesters into custody at Rotterdam Harbor in the Netherlands after the protesters blocked the cargo ship MVAS Progress from leaving the port.
Greenpeace's flagship boat, the Rainbow Warrior, with activists in inflatable boats and canoes blocked the ship for more than eight hours before tug boats could escort it to sea.
"Day and night, U.S. tanks and helicopters are being shipped to the Gulf from European ports," Greenpeace spokesman Femke Bartels said from the dock. "Greenpeace is determined to do everything it can to stop this relentless march to war."
He said that the impending military action would violate international law.
"Not only would it make the world a more volatile and dangerous place, it would also be illegal, disastrous and immoral," Mr. Bartels said.
Police authorities turned a high-powered water cannon on the protesters, who attempted to climb up the stern of the Progress, and rammed the environmentalists' inflatable boats, said one activist identified only as "Tracy," who was aboard the Rainbow Warrior.
The activist used a cell phone to give several reports on the blockade that were recorded and posted on the Greenpeace Web site.
At least two protesters jumped out of an inflatable boat after police boarded it.
"It was the first ship to leave the Netherlands, but it's probably not going to be the last. But you haven't heard the last from us either," Tracy said after the ship left port.
The actions drew criticism from members on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers said Greenpeace is protecting an enemy of the environment Saddam, whose forces set fire to Kuwait's oil fields during the 1991 Gulf war.
Rep. Scott McInnis, Colorado Republican and chairman of the House Resources subcommittee on forests and forest health, called the fires "the largest environmental calamities in human history."
"Greenpeace's radicalism is a total disgrace," Mr. McInnis said. "They have now gone from hugging trees to hugging Saddam Hussein."
Environmentalists oppose war with Iraq and say it would be about securing America's oil supply, not preventing Saddam's weapons of mass destruction from reaching terrorists.
Members of Greenpeace, the Rukus Society, the Rainforest Action Network, Project Underground and the Earth Island Institute joined with millions on Feb. 15 around the world to protest the war.
On Monday, Greenpeace activists blocked Antwerp Harbor in Belgium as four ships were loading up military supplies and one naval ship was trying to dock.
"We were not going to let this military ship move on and load up for war without a fight," one activist said.
Police again turned water hoses on the protesters and rammed their inflatable boats.
"Once, as it came close to our boat, a man with a hook on the end of a pole jabbed the sharp end into our inflatable. Luckily, no damage was done and no one was injured," the protester said. "We stopped the military ship from loading tonight, but there will be more."
Most environmental groups so far have limited their anti-war protests to words and marches. The Rukus Society plans anti-war protest training at colleges throughout the country.
"We firmly believe direct action training is contributing to the power of the movement," the society said.
Green groups will participate in a "virtual march" on Washington on Wednesday to protest the impending war with a barrage of phone calls and faxes to members of Congress.
The protest is sponsored by the Win Without War campaign, which features actor Martin Sheen in television ads speaking out against the war.


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