Protesters Try to Halt Departure of Rechristened Exxon Valdez

From United Press International

Protesters in inflatable boats surrounded the former Exxon Valdez before dawn today, climbing her sides to unfurl a banner and chaining themselves to her rudder. Nine protesters were arrested.

Harbor Police using bolt cutters freed two protesters from the environmental activist group Greenpeace who had chained themselves to the tanker's rudder about 20 feet above the water. The pair, along with a third protester attempting to hang a banner from the rudder, were arrested, Sgt. David Rohowits said.

Harbor Police Chief Arthur LeBlanc said nine people were arrested.

Exxon spokesman Les Rogers in Houston said Greenpeace protesters in motorized inflatable boats pulled up to the stern of the tanker about 4:30 a.m. as the giant ship was preparing to get under way for the Middle East.

The tanker, renamed the Exxon Mediterranean in July at the end of an unprecedented refitting, caused the worst oil spill in American history in Alaska's Prince William Sound in March, 1989.

Kelly Quirke, a Greenpeace spokesman, said four people, including one who fell and hurt his arm, climbed the side of the ship to hang a banner that read "Sane Energy: When?"

Protesters also floated an oil boom and a 20-foot inflatable globe about the ship.

"We wanted to blockade the Valdez to call attention to the fact it represents a battleship in the war on the environment," Quirke said. "It has put us in the precarious position of being on the brink of war in the Middle East."

Once the protest was over, a blanket of fog rolled in and the tanker's departure was put on hold.

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