Grandmother and climate activist Rosemary Penwarden was today found guilty of two charges brought against her for sending a satirical letter notifying oil industry conference speakers that the 2019 PEPANZ Petroleum Conference had been postponed until further notice due to the climate crisis. Sentencing will be in September and carries a maximum charge of 10 years in jail, but Penwarden says she will seek a discharge without conviction.
Penwarden says she is disappointed but undeterred from her climate activism. She claims that the charges were orchestrated by the oil industry in what she labelled as a cynical legal strategy designed to suppress climate activism.
Outside the court, she said that the ruling was “a motivation to continue doing what I do.”
Greenpeace programme director Niamh O’Flynn was at court for the hearing and said it was a relief to see Rosemary go free but also questioned whether Penwarden should have been put through this ordeal at all.
“Protest is a core part of a healthy democracy, and it should be protected from the predatory strategies employed by big polluters. We need climate action now more than ever. We need more people like Rosemary prepared to take a stand.
“We applaud Rosemary for standing up against big oil and gas.”
“After sending the letter in 2019, Penwarden had her house searched and her possessions confiscated by police, she faced serious charges and had her life disrupted for over three years by an industry trying to crack down on climate protesters.”
“Aside from the injustice of that, the whole thing was a huge waste of resources, and it’s hard to escape the obvious conclusion that it is an oil industry strategy to crack down on peaceful protest to take the heat off their dying industry.
“The oil industry should know, though, that we have Rosemary’s back and that their heavy-handed bully tactics will only result in more people standing against their climate-wrecking industry. It will not deter anyone from climate activism.
“Bullying peaceful protestors through the courts is like the death rattle from an industry that knows that climate activists are right and is trying to fight back against inevitable change.”
Greenpeace itself has been subjected to nefarious tactics by the oil industry. In 2017, the organisation received leaked information indicating that oil companies had contracted spies to watch Greenpeace staff and volunteers on almost a daily basis and that it had been going on for years. Using a reverse sting operation, Greenpeace caught the oil industry spies red-handed, and it later came to light that school children involved in School Strikes for Climate had also been targeted.
O’Flynn says, “the case brought against Penwarden this week is part of a pattern of oil industry bully tactics here and around the world designed to suppress peaceful protest at a time when the real criminal is the oil industry and other big polluters like Fonterra, which deny, resist and delay reform, and are now fighting back.”
The satirical letter notifying oil industry conference speakers that the 2019 Petroleum Conference had been postponed until further notice due to the climate crisis was read out in court by Penwarden and included the lines:
“We are deeply concerned at the rapidly accelerating social and political changes engulfing us, highlighted by many of our own children preparing to strike from school to demand a safe future.
“Our social licence is slipping away faster than anticipated.
“Furthermore, despite our best efforts at secrecy, activists have discovered this year’s conference and were yet again planning noise and disruption.
“But there is a silver lining to all of this: we will not be there to listen to that incessant chanting.”