Who are the
Greenpeacers? Robert F. Jones and photographer Heinz Kluetmeier covered a
Greenpeace expedition last month. Here is Jones's report:
We met up with
Greenpeace's Great Lakes raiding party at Midland, Mich. a few days after the
sinking of Rainbow Warrior. Its members had already raised eyebrows and a
little hell in Buffalo, where they had blocked waste pipes at the Occidental
Chemical Co. Now they were zeroing in on Dow Chemical Co., whose 4,500-acre
home plant dominates tidy Midland (pop. 73,578). The Greenpeacers had arrived
in a 107-foot wooden-hulled ketch, the Fri (pronounced and meaning
"free" in Danish), a former Baltic trading vessel that for the past 15
years has sailed the world in various causes. "This ship brought supplies
to the Indians on Alcatraz in 1969 and '70," said David Moodie, 39, the
Fri's owner and captain. "We sailed it to Mururoa in '73 in the flotilla
with David McTaggart's Vega. Since then we've carried books to Namibia, peace
messages to China and farm supplies to Nicaragua."
In its days as a
Baltic trader, the Fri was manned by only three hands, but now it was carrying
a crew of 13. Some were new hands, getting their first taste of life before the
mast. A few were veterans of earlier Greenpeace adventures. All of them were
uptight because of the Warrior's sinking. Moodie was posting watches all
through the night. Despite the lookouts, someone did manage to spray-paint DOW
KNOW HOW DOW on the Fri's black hull.
At Midland, the
Greenpeace commandos ran up the Tittabawassee River (which carries the Dow
plant's discharge into Saginaw Bay and thence to Lake Huron) in their
inflatable rafts. The raiders then slogged for an hour through reeking shoals
and plugged 15 diffuser pipes emanating from the main discharge duct. They used
homemade wooden plugs 15 inches in diameter, painted red with white
lettering—STOP. They bolted the plugs tight to the pipes' inner lips even
though Dow had shut down the outflow before they arrived.
out for 4� days right beside the pipes," said Fri crewman Gary Crosslin,
29, of Freehold, N.J. "It was stinking, you got a headache just breathing
that——." The discharge contains dioxins, phenols and benzene compounds. Dow
maintains they are adequately treated to meet Michigan Department of Natural
Resources regulations, and the DNR agrees. Greenpeace says any amount of toxins
is too much. Crosslin isn't terribly interested in such arguments. In his
non- Greenpeace existence, he heads a rock band out of Asbury Park, N.J., called
Junior Smoots and the Disturbers. This was his sabbatical. Some sabbatical.
"One of our divers had a leak in his dry suit, and his toenails turned
purple for about three days," he said. A girl had her nail polish eaten
off. Still, once we'd had the pipes plugged for a while, the river cleaned up
But Dow decided
enough was enough. Six security men swooped down on the pipes with bolt cutters
and cleared them in a matter of minutes.
In the dead of
night the 'Peacers sent two veteran raiders—Steve Loper, 30, and Ken Hollis,
26—into the Dow plant itself. They took 2� hours to crawl across a pipe bridge
to the plant. They made their way inside, got to the bottom of a pair of
140-foot-tall production towers and began their climb. Their aim was to string
a banner that read YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'VE GOT TILL IT'S GONE between the
two towers. As dawn broke, Dow security men spotted them, and suddenly it was
as if Libyan terrorists had invaded Michigan.
The chase was on.
Hollis was caught at 6 a.m. and handcuffed to a railing. Loper managed to stay
out of reach. This helped to guarantee just what Greenpeace wanted most: time
for the press and television news crews to arrive at the scene. Loper finally
came down on his own after nearly 10 hours aloft. He and Hollis were charged
at the Tittabawassee, three other 'Peacers were busted for attempting to replug
Dow's pipes. One was Steve McAllister, 36, Greenpeace USA's national campaign
director. A lean, mustachioed veteran of combat in Vietnam and a former home
construction worker in Vermont, he joined Greenpeace five years ago as a
crewman on Rainbow Warrior. The other arrestees were Fri crew members Melissa
Ortquist, 27, and Soren Pedersen, 22. The five were held on $2,000 bond each.
The three repluggers pleaded not guilty and were ordered to trial in October.
Loper and Hollis pleaded nolo contendere and were allowed to work off their
sentences by cleaning up junk in a nearby state forest. So ended the great Dow
confrontation—just as Greenpeace had hoped, with plenty of headlines.
That evening the
raiders celebrated with a beer blast at the white clapboard farmhouse they had
rented as their headquarters. It could have been a hippie commune of the '60s.
There were rusted cars in the barnyard, and babies and kittens on the front
porch. McAllister said, "This looks pretty casual and disorganized. But
when we move on a target, I insist on military discipline. People move when and
where they're told. Everyone knows his or her job by heart. Our enemies—the big
companies, governments, the military—they're tough. We're not fighting the
working stiffs. Sometimes, in my more cynical moments, I think Greenpeace ought
to sell indulgences like the Catholic Church did in the days before Luther.
Say, a $100 contribution to save the whales earns you three guilt-free days.
For a thousand, a whole month without dreams of bashed baby seals. To me,
though, the work is worth it by itself, even with the risk of something like
the Rainbow Warrior happening. Either you do something with your life, or when
you die finally, you regret every minute of it."