Arctic30’s Colin Russell on the right to protest – one year on

26 September 2014

Twelve months ago I was arrested along with 29 of my ship mates on board the Arctic Sunrise. The reason for my arrest was simple, I couldn’t remain silent as the Russian oil giant, Gazprom, carried out its ambition to drill in this glorious wilderness of the Arctic.

But a year is a long time. After nearly three months detention in a very grim Russian jail, I was freed along with my mates and was finally able to go home best mate and wife, Chrissy, and daughter Maddy. It was a great day.

I am back on board the Arctic Sunrise, trying to repair the damage inflicted on her by the Russian soldiers that tried to take her apart. I have time for thought, reflection and reading. Right now I’m reading the story surrounding the Tasmanian Government’s changes to laws protecting our forests and the places we love and I can’t believe it is true. Not only is the government going to repeal the Forest Agreement, they are also trying to change the laws to make sure they have the power to jail all the Australians who will once again go to the forest to protect her from their plunder. When I was in Russia I was really grateful for the freedoms that citizens have in Australia to peacefully protest and I’m so worried to see those freedoms being eroded.

I can’t help but wonder if this is all part of same corrupting influence big business has on our democratic processes? We have seen what this looks like as NSW reveals the extent of corruption
through the ICAC Inquiry. I’m worried by the general trend in Australia of Governments changing laws to let big business trash our environment while making it harder and harder to peacefully protest to protect nature. At the moment it seems as though it gives big business a free run to vandalise our country by digging up coal, dumping on the Reef, selling uranium to India and open our national parks to shooters, logging and mining?

And then lock up all those who disagree for a mandatory three months?

When will these people learn, we don’t have second planet to go to if they trash this one. Whether it’s the Arctic, the Tarkine, the Reef or the nature strip out the front of your place, we must stand
together to protect the places we love for the people we love. That’s why I’m back on board the Arctic Sunrise.

Colin Russell
Arctic 30 member