Twenty years ago today, Fernando Pereira, a photographer with Greenpeace, drowned below deck when French government agents set and detonated two mines on the hull of the group's flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, as it sat docked in Auckland harbor. The crew had been preparing to protest French nuclear testing at Muraroa atoll in the South Pacific.
In a dawn ceremony this morning, a memorial sculpture was lowered from the deck of the new(er) Rainbow Warrior into New Zealand's Matauri Bay alongside the scuttled remains of the original to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Pereira's murder.
Justice is still long in coming to those responsible for sinking the Rainbow Warrior and killing Pereira, but over the years, Greenpeace has transmuted the loss into life, and a rallying point for international activism. The ship now rests on the seafloor as an artificial reef that supports diverse animals and plants and attracts divers from around the world. Maori in the area say they are honored to be guardians of the ship. 500 people from over a dozen nations gathered in Paris today to remember the bombing and demonstrate for peace. Australia-Pacific musicians from Maori-Niuean hip-hopper Che Fu to Australian band roots band the John Butler Trio joined up this evening for a concert in Auckland to commemorate the anniversary and raise funds for Greenpeace.
Greenpeace has embraced campaign blogging in a big way (I noted their tsunami relief reports back in January), including the runup to this weekend's commemorations. This entry from the Paris demonstration is particularly sweet, especially coming just after the bombings in London:
I walked into this massive warehouse on a farm outside of Paris and my jaw dropped. There were more than 500 people there, and it was chocker block. They were young, old, all races all colours. There were rasta dreads and crew cuts, high heels and Doc Martens. And they were all there to say something to the world about peace. What a bunch of naive hippies. I nearly wept with pride to count myself among them.
Greenpeace launched the current Rainbow Warrior on July 10, 1989. She'll soon be on a clean energy tour of Australia, with open boat days in Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne, and Adelaide later in July. I worked for Greenpeace in 1989-90 and got to see this Rainbow Warrior in New York Harbor. If you like boats, have a soft spot for environmentalist icons, and/or would enjoy some inspiration, it's well worth a visit.