Seizing rainbows and stopping wars

Feature story - 15 March, 2003
The Rainbow Warrior was seized while trying to stop the march of the war machine, our captain and several crew members were injured during arrests. But ours are minor bruises and sprains compared with the death and destruction a war on Iraq would cause for thousands of innocent people. We dare to dream that this war can be stopped.

The Rainbow Warrior being boarded by the Spanish Guardia Civil at port entrance of Rota Naval Base.

The Esperanza may be the Greenpeace ship of hope, but the Rainbow Warrior is the ship of dreams. With a rainbow on the side and a dolphin on the bow, magic seems to follow it. Dolphins appear when you need encouragement, rainbows appear when your dreams are in sight.

I've heard great stories about the Rainbow Warrior being bombed by the French and helping evacuate the people of Rongelap island in the south Pacific and many stories that came after. So it was with a bit of shock that I found myself on the bridge of the Rainbow Warrior as the police were breaking through the door and storming through the ship.

We had been anchored just outside the military port entrance of Rota for more than 14 hours. Inside the harbour was a large US military cargo vessel carrying war supplies for the Gulf region.

At about 18:00 when the captain called all of the remaining crew to the bridge for a crew meeting to tell us that the police wanted us to leave and ask our opinions, it was with those dreams in our hearts that we all said we wanted to stay.

By midnight the police were tired of waiting and ready to move. Two tug boats arrived with a small police boat to cut our anchor chain. They started to tow us back the commercial port in Cadiz where we had been docked just days before.

As we were coming into Cadiz harbour, I heard the captain say "they are going to break in, everybody down below". Almost everyone headed down the bridge stairs except for the captain and a few of us that stayed behind to film and take photos. I was on the port side, there was a loud noise on the window of the starboard side bridge door as the police took a sledge hammer to it, then another bang on the window of the door right behind me. Then the glass of the starboard side shattered and after a couple more knocks the police created a large hole in the window. I saw the face of the police chief appear and his arm came through the window to unlock the door. I headed for the stairs and as I was at the top the police came through the door, maybe ten of them.

I was knocked tumbling down the stairs and the remaining crew on the bridge spilled through the door into the alleyway below. The police were right behind us.

The police chief was shouting to Daniel the captain who was right behind me up against the end of the alleyway. Many other crew were in front of me and as the police pushed their way through them to get to the captain I heard shouting and a few hard whacks. One of the crew was elbowed in the nose and put in a headlock, another punched in the stomach and put in a headlock. The police chief was by then right in my face shouting at Daniel behind me, the camera was shaking in my hand.

Daniel pushed the fire alarm and after a few tense seconds that seemed like minutes he went with the police hoping to prevent any more violence against the crew. All the police retreated back up to the bridge deck and some of us followed. There was glass all over the floor and Daniel was outside, the police binding his hands with rope. The police came back in the bridge and grabbed Phil the Bosun and Carlos the Spanish campaigner, pulled them out onto the deck, arrested them and tied their hands as well.

The tugs brought the ship alongside the dock and some of us were allowed out on deck to help set out the mooring lines. The three arrested were taken off the ship and loaded into a van.

It was a brutal scene and one I will not quickly forget. Everyone was a bit shell shocked afterwards and sad to have lost our captain. But the experience was nothing compared to the violence that the people of Iraq will experience if the US, UK and Spain go ahead with this war. It is because of them that we put ourselves in harm's way. It is because of the thousands of innocent people who will be killed and injured that we tried to stop the US military cargo ship Cape Horn from taking supplies for war to the Gulf.

It is because we dream of peaceful solutions that we ride the rainbow.

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.