21 charged in Greenpeace oilsands protest

Twenty-one Greenpeace protesters in the Alberta oilsands have been charged with mischief to property worth over $5,000.

Twenty-one Greenpeace protesters in the Alberta oilsands have been charged with mischief to property worth over $5,000, the RCMP confirmed Thursday.

The environmental protesters were arrested late Wednesday afternoon, after a day-long blockade of two giant conveyer belts at Suncor Energy's oilsands mine near Fort McMurray, Alta.

Among those charged is Bruce Cox, executive director of Greenpeace Canada. Eight of those arrested are from Germany, one each from England, Brazil and France and 10 from Canada.

The international protesters had to post $2,500 bail, while each Canadian posted $500 bail. The only Albertan arrested and charged is Calgary's Tavis John Ford, 38, who was released without bail.

All 21 activists are required to check in weekly with the RCMP, "keep the peace and be of good behaviour" and they must leave the Wood Buffalo municipality immediately and not return except for court purposes.

They are all scheduled to appear in Fort McMurray provincial court on Nov. 4.

The RCMP ended the blockade of two giant conveyer belts when they arrested 11 protesters just before 6 p.m. local time on Wednesday.

At about 4 p.m., the RCMP arrested 10 other Greenpeace members, whom they allege were trying to attach themselves to the bridge on the Suncor site.

Environmental impact feared

The protest was organized to bring international attention to the environmental impact of oilsands development, Greenpeace's Mike Hudema said.

"Everyone going into the activity at Suncor was prepared to get arrested and the reason why they were doing that was to really send that message to take a moral stance," he said.

The protest started at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday when protesters took canoes and kayaks down the Athabasca River to the Suncor bridge. Some protesters climbed on top of two giant conveyer belts that take oilsands material into the upgrader, while others unfurled a banner along the river that read "Dying for Climate Leadership."

A Suncor official confirmed the company had stopped the conveyer belts but said the facility continued to operate.

The blockade against the Alberta oilsands was the second within a month.

On Sept. 15, protesters chained themselves to two massive oilsands trucks after sneaking on to Shell Canada's Albian Sands mine, an action timed to coincide with a meeting the following day in Washington between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama.

That protest ended peacefully the next day after Shell and the RCMP agreed to let the protesters leave without being charged.