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Poland: Greenpeace activists detained after staging anti-coal protests

Warsaw, Poland – Activists from Greenpeace Poland have been arrested and detained for staging anti-coal protests.

On Monday, Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior ship anchored at a coal terminal and attempted to block a delivery of coal in the port of Gdansk, north of Poland. According to Gdansk coastal border guard spokesman Tadeusz Gruchalla, the environmental activists were trying to prevent a shipment of coal from Mozambique from being unloaded.

Out of the 22 activists who took part to the operation, two were subsequently detained after armed Polish border guards border the Greenpeace ship: the captain, a Spaniard, and an Austrian activist. They’re still awaiting the decision of prosecutors.

The environmental NGO later accused Polish authorities of using excessive violence during the late-night raid against their ship and “peaceful demonstration”. They released a video showing masked men boarding the ship, smashing windows of the Rainbow Warrior with sledgehammers while threatening activists with their weapons and yelling at them to get “on the ground”.

The Interior Ministry dismissed the accusations, saying the officers had behaved in a “professional and effective” manner and that Greenpeace had violated “shipping safety regulations”.

“We’re doing this to draw attention to the gigantic problem of Poland’s dependency on coal”, Pawel Szypulski, an activist for the environmental NGO, told Reuters.

In a statement, he added: “The Polish government has no clear plan to move away from coal by 2030, and in June, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki blocked the EU’s strategy to achieve climate neutrality by 2050”, referring to Poland’s move to torpedo an EU-wide plan to end greenhouse gas emissions by the mid-century.

Credit: Max Zielinski/Greenpeace Polska via Reuters

Greenpeace’s actions were meant to raise awareness about Poland’s dependence on coal, a highly sensitive political topic, and pressure public authorities to phase out coal by 2030 to reach the EU’s climate goals.

“Our authorities must finally understand that we do not need more coal”, said Marek Jozefiak, coordinator of the Climate and Energy campaign in Greenpeace Polska. “We need a fair energy transformation and the development of renewable energy sources that will ensure Poland’s energy independence and new jobs”.

On Wednesday, Greenpeace activists staged another protest, this time climbing up cranes in the port of Gdansk to stop them from operating and hanging huge banners saying “Poland Without Coal”.

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