July 26 2017, updated 6:42am

Greenpeace protest drains police from city

Last updated 01:07 26/03/2008
PROTEST: Greenpeace flagship the Rainbow Warrior was used in an attempt to stop a coal tanker leaving Lyttelton in a climate change protest.

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A lone constable was attacked in a brawl in central Christchurch yesterday as 30 other officers spent hours dealing with a Greenpeace protest on Lyttelton Harbour, police said.

"Why Greenpeace couldn't find a way of protesting that didn't tie up emergency services for so long is disappointing," said police area commander for Christchurch South Inspector Malcolm Johnston.

The 30 officers were involved in controlling the Greenpeace action trying to stop a coal tanker leaving Lyttelton.

Meanwhile, a brawl broke out in Cashel Mall involving 10 youths while a group of 30 others looked on.

A lone constable on traffic duty was the only officer available to attend the fight.

Police in the southern communications centre could only watch it unfold on closed circuit television.

The constable was assaulted by a young woman, receiving minor injuries, before police back-up arrived as the incident was made a priority call.

Johnston defended the police response to the Greenpeace protest, saying the 30 officers were all fully occupied at the scene.

Six Greenpeace protesters - three men and three women - were arrested after several tied themselves to the side of the freighter Hellenic Sea.

The protest was the first time the group's vessel the Rainbow Warrior has been used to block a ship in New Zealand waters.

Events began to unfold about 4.30pm when Rainbow Warrior anchored itself about 500m from the 38,000 tonne Greek carrier, making it unsafe for it to leave port.

By about 5.20pm three activists had climbed the starboard quarter of the Hellenic Sea and were attempting to raise a banner.

Meanwhile a female activist hung from an anchor chain on the Rainbow Warrior trying to prevent it being moved.

By 6.45pm police on a tug had managed to remove the three protesters roped to Hellenic Sea, and arrested three others in an inflatable boat.

The protest was part of Greenpeace's Target Climate Change campaign to get the Government to reduce carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2020.

"The Government are employing an emissions trading scheme which is supposed to reduce carbon emissions," said climate-change campaigner Simon Boxer.

"This will do very little to stop industry expanding its emissions.

"We are specifically saying they must put in place this reduction target for New Zealand's emissions."

Greenpeace says the Government is rubbishing its own attempts to cut emissions by expanding New Zealand's coal industry and exporting coal to other countries.

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Following the arrest of the protesters the Hellenic Sea was able to make its way out of Lyttelton.

It began its voyage to France, at 7pm.

The vessel is carrying 60,000 tonnes of coal.

As police boarded the Rainbow Warrior, campaign director Carmen Gravattsaid she and her crew had been determined to hold up the tanker for as long as possible.

When they attached themselves to the side of the Hellenic Sea the protesters attempted to unfurl a banner bearing the slogan Target Climate Change.

Police onboard the tug used hoses to blast the activists.

Once they had been arrested the tug then pushed the Rainbow Warrior away from the tanker so it had enough room to leave the dockside.

Julie McCloy, the communications manager for Lyttelton Port Company, said the Hellenic Sea was able to leave as scheduled.

Greenpeace broke maritime law by operating the Rainbow Warrior without an authorised pilot and anchoring in an illegal spot in the harbour, she said.

Police said three people had been arrested for obstruction and three for unlawfully getting into a boat.

Other charges may follow.


- The Press

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