Auckland – Greenpeace volunteers are today holding a dawn to dusk vigil in a mock prison cell on the Auckland waterfront to mark the 30th day of detention in Russia for the Arctic 30 which includes two New Zealanders.
Greenpeace is calling for the immediate release of the 28 activists plus a freelance photographer and freelance videographer.
Thirty volunteers including Nicola Beauchamp, the sister of New Zealand activist Jonathan Beauchamp, are taking turns to complete 30-minute vigils in the small prison cell on Queens Wharf. Each volunteer represents one of the Arctic 30.
Nicola Beauchamp said her family were heartened by the thousands of people who had been involved in solidarity events for the Arctic 30 over the last month.
“Jon and his colleagues took a stand for us. Now we need to stand up for them,” she said
The Queens Wharf vigil is near to where the Rainbow Warrior was bombed by the French Government in 1985. Greenpeace NZ Executive Director Bunny McDiarmid, who was a crew member at the time of the bombing, was one of the first volunteers in the cell vigil. She represented the captain of the Arctic Sunrise Peter Willcox who was also the captain of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985.
McDiarmid said similar events were being held around the world today to mark the ‘30 days of injustice’ for the Arctic 30 charged with piracy by a Russian court following a peaceful protest against Arctic oil drilling at a Gazprom oil platform in the Pechora Sea.
“They knew that an Arctic oil spill would decimate a region of breath-taking beauty and would be almost impossible to clean up. And they knew that we can’t tackle the threat from a warming world if we burn the oil under the Arctic. We are here because peaceful activism is not a crime,” she said.
“Greenpeace does not put itself above the law. Those 30 brave men and women are not pirates and this charge represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest.”
Amnesty International's Activism Support Manager Margaret Taylor, also at the vigil, described the piracy charges as is “absurd, unfounded and ludicrous and damaging to the rule of law."
"These charges should be dropped immediately, and there are no grounds for the activists to be held and denied bail under them. Unless there are any other reasonable and well-founded charges, the activists should be released immediately."
Other vigils this morning have represented New Zealanders David Haussmann and Jonathan Beauchamp who, earlier this week, were denied bail along with 11 others. Bail hearings for the rest of the group are continuing.
Visitors to the Queens Wharf vigil are sending messages of support to the Arctic 30 by writing on paper doves. They are also being asked to join the 1.5 million people who have sent letters to Russian embassies demanding the release of the group.