Lucy Lawless protests Arctic oil drilling: Her courage will change the world

Without sword or chakram, actor Lucy Lawless occupied the Noble Explorer, an oil-drilling ship docked in Auckland last February.  With seven other Greenpeace activists, she tried to stop the ship from leaving port until she was finally arrested after 77 hours.

Lawless, who enjoys the mixed blessing of forever being identified as “television’s Xena, warrior princess,” plead guilty to trespass.  She could be sentenced to as much as three years in prison.

Because of her pre-Greenpeace life as Xena, Lawless’s protest drew international attention to the cause.  The New Zealand Herald is the only source I could find that listed the names of those accompanying her:

The New Zealand actor’s arrest and the subsequent court action received publicity from far afield, and was covered by global media giants including the BBC, ABC, Reuters, the Daily Mail and the Washington Post.

The huge media scrum outside Auckland District Court this morning also attested to the success of the protest.

“Yeah, I think we’ve helped kick off a great movement,” Lawless told reporters.

The eight activists – Lawless, Jan Raoni Hammer, Mike Ross Buchanan, Shayne Panayiotis Comino, Vivienne Rachel Hadlow, Shai Sebastian Naides, Zach Steven Penman and Ilai Amir – were initially charged with burglary but this was amended in court today to the lesser charge of unlawfully being on a ship.

The eight appeared in the dock together and stood quietly as their lawyer Ron Mansfield entered the pleas on their behalf…

In February the protestors broke into a restricted area at Port Taranaki and boarded Shell-contracted drilling ship the Noble Explorer to prevent it heading to the Chukchi Sea, off the coast of Alaska, to drill three exploratory oil wells.

They scaled its 58 metre drilling tower and set up camp at the top for 77 hours, using social media to beam their message around the world.

Lawless was adamant the protest had had an impact, saying 470,000 people supported the action…

“We want to tell (those responsible for deep sea oil drilling) absolutely under no circumstances is this a good idea. They are robbing our children of their birthright to a clean and healthy planet and they know it.”

Lucy saw her lawlessness as service to a higher cause.  Well-aware of her celebrity, she knew her celebrity would be a force multiplier for the civil disobedience action.

About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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