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13 Greenpeace Activists Arrested in Ship Protest

October 23, 1998|DAN WEIKEL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Federal authorities and local police, including a SWAT team, arrested 13 environmental activists Thursday, four of whom had chained themselves to the crane of a Long Beach-bound freighter to protest the logging of old-growth rain forests.

The demonstrators, all members of Greenpeace International, were taken into custody by Long Beach police and the Coast Guard two days after the organization boarded the 570-foot Thorseggen in an attempt to prevent the crew from unloading 8,000 tons of newsprint.

Greenpeace says that the paper was partially manufactured from wood chips supplied by International Forest Products Limited, a Canadian company based in British Columbia. The firm logs in one of the largest temperate rain forests on Earth.

"We knew there was the possibility that people could be arrested, but Greenpeace is dedicated and committed to saving the Great Bear Rain Forest and prevent the clear-cutting that is going on there," said Racine Tucker-Hamilton, a representative of the environmental group.

Nine people were released, and police said they would not pursue charges. But the four who had chained themselves to the crane were booked on suspicion of trespassing and resisting an officer, both misdemeanors.

Federal marshals and representatives of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service also were present during the arrests. The Greenpeace members from other countries may face immigration proceedings as well.

The demonstrators were arrested at the request of Norsk Pacific Steamship Co. Limited of Seattle, the owner of the Thorseggen. In a statement, company officials said the action was necessary in order to unload the ship.

Norsk "requested Greenpeace to voluntary leave the ship peaceably and safely, and they have chosen not to do that," the statement said. "We view the demonstrators' activities as being illegal."

The demonstration began just before dawn Tuesday when Greenpeace placed swimmers in the harbor about a quarter-mile in front of the Thorseggen, which was headed to Pier D in the Port of Long Beach.

As the ship took evasive action, a flotilla of inflatable boats sped alongside the hull, allowing four protesters to climb aboard using grappling hooks and ladders. The boarding party chained themselves to the Thorseggen's forward crane. Two members of the group suspended themselves with ropes from the crane's superstructure.

On Wednesday evening, Greenpeace relieved the original boarders by creating a diversion on one side of the Thorseggen while a new group of demonstrators boarded quietly from the other side.

Times correspondent Jack Leonard contributed to this story.

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