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Actress Lucy Lawless arrested in oil drilling protest

The Associated Press, Monday, February 27, 2012, 5:35am (PST)
  • WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- Police arrested actress Lucy Lawless and five Greenpeace activists Monday, four days after they climbed onto an oil-drilling ship to prevent it from leaving a New Zealand dock.

    Police removed the protesters from their perch atop a 174-foot drilling tower on the Noble Discoverer in Port Taranaki. Chartered by oil company Shell, the ship had been due to leave over the weekend to drill five exploratory wells in the Arctic.

    Lawless and six activists climbed the tower early Friday to stop the ship's departure and raise awareness about Arctic oil drilling.

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    One of the activists left the tower Saturday and was initially charged with unlawfully boarding a ship. All seven have now been charged with burglary, a more serious crime. All have been released and are due to appear in a New Zealand court Thursday.

    Lawless, 43, a native New Zealander, is best known for her title role in the TV series "Xena: Warrior Princess," and more recently for starring in the Starz cable television series "Spartacus."

    Lawless spoke to The Associated Press from atop the tower Friday, where she said wind gusts were making it difficult for the group to stay put. She said she felt compelled to take a stand against oil drilling in the Arctic and against global warming.

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    "I've got three kids. My sole biological reason for being on this planet is to ensure that they can flourish, and they can't do that in a filthy, degraded environment," she said. "We need to stand up while we still can."

    In a series of tweets over the weekend, Lawless described some of the challenges of staying on the tower.

    "I found last night pretty darn scary," she wrote. "Not for sissies."

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    In a release, Rob Jager, chairman of Shell New Zealand, said the protest had put people in danger and he was pleased it was over. He said he remained disappointed that Greenpeace hadn't taken up the company's offer to engage in a "productive conversation."

    Shell spokeswoman Shona Geary said she thought the ship would leave port within the next few days.

    Bunny McDiarmid, the chief executive of Greenpeace New Zealand, said she thought the protest had gone "brilliantly," and that more than 100,000 people had sent messages to Shell to oppose the company's Arctic plans.

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