Fingers on the triggers

Feature story - 13 March, 2003
The US Navy kept more than a close eye on Greenpeace activists this morning as the Coast Guard vessel Dallas left the US and Spanish naval port in Rota. The activists were escorting the vessel out of the port and were immediately pounced on by three police boats and a helicopter flying just metres above our inflatable boats while the coast guard crew manned the 20mm canons.

Greenpeace activists protesting in front of the US and Spanish naval base in Rota where there is a heavy presence of military vessels and preparations being made for the Gulf..

The Rota naval base is a joint operation between the US and Spain and a major stop for US chartered cargo ships on route to the Gulf. In addition to ships coming and going, the base has an airstrip where military supply planes are regularly landing and taking off, even late into the night.

Despite the overwhelming opposition to the war by Spanish people, the government is supporting the US led war on Iraq both politically in the UN Security Council and on the ground with base support.

Several activists were out this morning to let not only the government of Spain, but the participants that this war know that it is illegal, immoral and wrong. Our inflatable boats kept 100 metres away from the ship to not impede its progress, but police boats immediately surrounded our inflatables and a police helicopter was just metres above.

"The helicopter was so close I could see the pilot's name badge," said Timo, one of the activists driving an inflatable. The helicopter was flying just four metres above us, sometimes less, making it very wet, very hard to see and very hard to hear, the sound was deafening. The police in the helicopter kept telling us to move away from the ship, but since we were not doing anything illegal, we continued our peaceful protest."

The activists followed the Dallas for almost two kilometres where it pick up speed and we were not able to keep up.

The Dallas is more of a small war ship than a patrol vessel. It is 115 metres with a maximum speed of 29 knots and a crew of about 170. The ship is armed with harpoon missiles, 76 and 20 mm guns, torpedoes and a helicopter. Why not paint it grey and be done with it?

The Rainbow Warrior has been anchored off the naval base since Wednesday morning. Our presence has obviously flustered authorities who know there is almost no support from the Spanish people for this war.

A recent article in the US military publication Stars and Stripes stated: "The U.S. Navy and its Spanish counterparts are keeping an eye on the 179-foot schooner Rainbow Warrior, waiting to see what the group will do next in its push against a war on Iraq."

"Spanish and American security forces at the nearby Navy base in Rota are standing by in case the group attempts a blockade of ships at the pier. Lt. Corey Barker, a base spokesman for the U.S. Navy, said U.S. security patrolmen are ready in case the Spanish harbor patrol forces need help moving ships in and out of the pier."

With 20mm canons on peaceful protestors, they are doing more than just keeping an eye on us.

Take action

and show your opposition to the war by writing to the members of the UN Security Council and ask them to say no to war.