New Zealand climate activist faces up to 10 years in prison. The court found her guilty of forgery. Impersonating the organizers, she sent a letter with false information to people who were to speak at the oil industry conference. Rosemary Penwarden, 64, wrote that the event had been postponed due to the climate crisis.
Living near Dunedin, New Zealand, 64-year-old Rosemary Penwarden wrote a letter to those scheduled to speak at the 2019 PEPANZ oil industry conference. She impersonated the organizers of the event. She sent the email five days before the event. It contained false information that it had been cancelled.
Excerpts from the letter Penwarden sent were published by Greenpeace. “We are deeply concerned by the rapidly accelerating social and political changes that are flooding us, highlighted by our own children as they prepare for a school strike to demand a secure future,” the letter reads.
The woman also wrote: “In addition, despite our best efforts to maintain secrecy, activists found out about this year’s conference and once again planned a hustle and bustle. But there is a positive in all this (the cancellation of the conference – ed.): We will not be there to listen to this incessant chanting.”
Activist: The message was meant to be satirical
The message – as she reported – was supposed to be “satirical” and “incite” representatives of the oil industry. “I never wanted them to take it seriously,” she added.
“I tried to be creative,” said Penwarden, who has been a climate activist since her grandson was born in 2011.
As she explained in an interview with CNN, she had been protesting oil conferences for years, but the 2019 PEPANZ was held in a fairly small city and she was concerned that few activists would be able to attend it.
The court found her guilty
The real organizers of PEPANZ managed to inform the speakers that the letter was fake and the conference took place. After that, nothing happened for many months, but in the summer of 2020, the police knocked on Penwarden’s house and detained her. Her laptop and mobile phone were confiscated.
After three years, Penwarden was found guilty of two counts – making and using a forged document – at Dunedin County Court last Wednesday.
“It was a surprise,” said the activist. – I remembered that the world is upside down. It is not the grandmothers who should be tried, but the oil industry, the people who are making huge profits from destroying our entire future, she said.
Greenpeace New Zealand’s program director, Niamh O’Flynn, called the Penwarden experience “an injustice” and a “huge waste of resources”. “We need climate action now more than ever. We need more people like Rosemary – ready to take a stand,” she added in a statement.
CNN contacted Energy Resources Aotearoa, formerly known as PEPANZ, for comment. By Saturday afternoon, however, he had not received a reply.
Penwarden promises to continue the fight against climate change
Sentencing is scheduled for September 8. The woman faces up to 10 years in prison. Penwarden said her lawyers are seeking “discharge without conviction.”
The grandmother and activist said she plans to continue to push governments to take steps to tackle the climate crisis. “It takes some courage to go beyond the everyday,” she said, adding that the current system “leads us to the abyss.”
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