Greenpeace holds direct action training camp in Manatee County
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02/28/12 Kelly Benjamin
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

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The environmental activist organization Greenpeace is in the Tampa Bay area this week holding a direct action training camp for young activists interested in using non-violent civil disobedience to call attention to environmental problems.

Over 70 activists from around the country are in the woods of rural Manatee County this week to learn how to more effectively commit non-violent direct action. That's actions that are meant to raise awareness and effectively achieve political, economic, or environmental progress. A team of trainers from Greenpeace is teaching participants how to drop banners from high places, block roads, handle boats and of course, deal with law enforcement.

Activists engaged in a role play exercise intended to hone the skills of communicating with police officers -- an inevitable event during the course of any direct action protest. Nathan Santry is an actions director with Greenpeace. He says the direct actions being taught at the camp are crucial to bringing about the kind of changes that move society forward.

In a clearing in the oak and pine woods near the Little Manatee River, Greenpeace trainers have erected a four-story scaffolding where about two dozen activists are practicing climbing up and down the structure. If you've ever seen a photo of a Greenpeace banner hanging from a tall building or bridge, this is how it's done. Harmony Lambert is a climbing trainer at the camp.

Environmental Activist Monica Embry came to the camp from North Carolina where she works with a group that is fighting to get companies like Progress Energy and Duke Energy to transition off of coal and invest in clean energy.

Greenpeace organizer Joe Smyth says the camp being held outside of Tampa just six months ahead of the Republican National Convention is coincidental and that the activists who were chosen for the camp come from a variety of environmental and social justice campaigns.

The Greenpeace training camp coincides with a visit from the Greenpeace ship The Rainbow Warrior which was docked in St. Petersburg throughout the weekend as part of it's maiden voyage to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro.

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