Friday, February 24, 2012

Erwin Rocks Japan, Engulfs Holland

Erwin Vermeulen found innocent Feb. 22, 2012
By Steven Thompson

Good media coverage on Erwin rocks Japan, even if they do still use the whaling word and avoid any mention of dolphins. Thank you Japanese media.

Amazing coverage engages the entire population of the Netherlands. Her Majesty Beatrix is reported to have been made aware of the human rights issues in Erwin's case. And Erwin hasn't even started on the Amsterdam press circuit yet. That all starts in the next 24 hours. All dolphin lovers offer a sincere thanks to the Dutch media and the Dutch government.

Stories have spun wildly and happily out of control. There will never be a way to repair the image of the police oppressing an emaciated, honest, and non-violent Dutch citizen protecting the even weaker members of the seas, the beautiful dolphins.

An interview with a Dutch tourist in Spain today came out with the understanding that Erwin had received no hot meals and was forced to be in solitary confinement. Neither is true, but the way it was all handled by the accuser, his boss and the police give rise to endless exaggeration on a personal level. The story will continually mutate around the coffee tables of Amsterdam for years to come.

Thank you Dolphin Resort Hotel! Thank you Mr. Kitagawa! Thank you Taiji and Shingu and Wakayama police. You could have ended the circus earlier but chose not to.

Remember that meeting? You all voted to continue the charade as yes-men for the Governor of Wakayama and his deputy, the Mayor of Munchkin City, I mean Taiji.

Gauging the impact of the new media coverage and the acquittal is what I'm thinking about. How deeply will Sea Shepherd's win in court affect the outcome of the dolphin hunt?

This discussion will be in flux as meetings and more press conferences get held over the next week. The next press conference is in Amsterdam. Both sides are certain to spin it for themselves. But one thing is clear: times have changed.

People around the world are certainly more engaged, but no country is now more engaged than Holland. I get the feeling that the Sea Shepherd flags will safely be Dutch permanently. Thank you Madame Prosecutor.

Dutchman Erwin Vermeulen, paid any balance due to cover the stress of the Dutch government for Sea Shepherd support with his 64 Days of inhumane treatment in a Japanese jail for doing nothing more than loving dolphins. The witness was judged to have lied. No pushing occurred. Dutch people protect their own and now this includes Taiji dolphins. Thank you Judge.

As I noted a few days ago in the TAG Blog:

"The Dolphin Slave Resort owner, their young cry-wolf dolphin trainer Kitagawa, the Japanese police at three levels (Taiji, Shingu, Wakayama), and Ms. I-want-Erwin-in-jail-one-more-day Prosecutor, clearly, obviously, and very publicly screwed the pooch."

My feeling is that that cute little Japanese puppy was Japan. And that she didn't like it very much. The politicians and business people who deal in dolphin death look pretty incompetent to the Japanese establishment. And then there is the money.

Budget negotiation in Japan for next year's national subsidy on Cetacean meat and the massive Taiji police and Coast Guard presence, and the whole Institute for Cetacean Research folly will occur every day all the month of March for a decision by the beginning of April.

My dolphin drumbeat until the end of March is: No more money for the Taiji hunt. Try it: 9 beats--pat your knees or the table in front of you.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Celebrate for Erwin and the Dolphins...Tokyo Tomorrow

Scott West and Erwin Vermeulen 2/22/12
By Steven Thompson
February 23, 2012 in Japan

Thank your Dolphin Lovers!

Historic teamwork here. When Sea Shepherds and I were coming out of the court, we were in telephone contact, posting on TDAG and Sea Shepherd sites.  All of us here who care so much and are invested so deeply, shared in the joy and continue to share the happiness. It really was something's ideal for growth, making deeper connections, cross-pollination and hope for ending the hunt.

There will always be a next step, and a next emergency, but now is the time for many to enjoy our success.

This year, I have usually supported in the background, but yesterday, observing the front lines, meeting new people, sparring with reporters. It was fun...then more fun--Party Time!

We enjoyed vegan food in Wakayama City...the ONLY vegan restaurant in Wakayama...if the translator had not been a vegetarian, we would not have been there. We toasted a cup of pirate rum to the freedom of dolphins and to Erwin. Even the lawyer imbibed! I could not have dreamt up better people or a better time. We laughed to irreverent piracy and plans for the future.

Next up, to slowly wrap our minds around, is year-round occupation. There are groups working hard on this. Join in privately if you feel the call. If you want to live in the Taiji area, please contact us.

Next up in my mind, is the Tokyo Press Conference. In 24 hours, Friday, Feb. 24th at 3:00pm. Erwin Vermeulen, Scott West, and the lead attorney, Mr. Iwao Takayama, possibly the best trial lawyer in Japan, will give a press conference in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents' Club.

Thank you for loving dolphins, thank you for working together.

Dolphins Win the Day in Court

Erwin Vermeulen and Scott West 
By Steven Thompson
Wakayama, Japan

February 23, 2012

All are just beginning to calculate the implications. But, one thing is clear: The dolphins won yesterday. A watershed moment exploded for all of us in the Free Dolphins Movement.

What happened yesterday, with an innocent ruling for Erwin Vermeulen in Japanese court, was much more than just our friend Erwin going free. The shock passing through all sides will be felt like the Earth's crust heaving a meter or two as we try to help each other.

New stories will come out in the near future. There are new players, or significant players in the dolphin issue whom I did not know about. Several came forward yesterday, poking their heads out for just long enough to see that the field is wider and deeper than I expected. There are at least six new stories I will cover in the following weeks. These stories exist because Sea Shepherd has committed to be in Taiji until the dolphin hunt stops. I cannot thank them enough.

The story of the Second Dutchman in the courtroom yesterday will come out. He helped me understand more in 10 minutes about the social and political issues in the dolphin issues than I have learned in the last four years.

The story of the Japanese Police supporting Erwin will come out. This telephone conversation was completely unexpected.

The media involvement has also never been this focused. I feel this was an immense change for them too. In a turnaround, I got to interview the reporters, as a captive audience, as we waited outside the court building for an hour, in line for an entry ticket. The reporters have been prevented from reporting on the dolphin issues by nationalist-agenda editors. This may change now.

The story of Scott West will be told in time. If he had not been such a hardheaded professional, this would certainly have had a very different outcome. Scott deserves the title and respect of Captain. He has effectively steered a ship called Infinite Patience, in a Japanese sea of chaos.

I also spoke to a friend of the accuser yesterday, a friend of Mr. Kitagawa. This is a first I believe--no one has heard the story in detail from the dolphin trainer's point of view. There is more here than we realize. Much more.

Finally, I spoke with Erwin at length. We will not see Erwin fade off of the stage anytime soon. Tomorrow will be a momentous occasion for Erwin. After 73 days of being kept from his job, he will legally be able to go back to work. Two hours from now, Erwin will be back in Taiji, defending the dolphins' right to live. Thank you Erwin, for your love of life and your endurance throughout this ordeal.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Judgment Day for Erwin Vermeulen

Innocent or guilty, we'll see you in Taiji.

By Steven Thompson

It's Judgment Day for Erwin Vermeulen tomorrow.

On Wednesday, February 22nd, the verdict will be announced in Wakayama District Court in the case of Kitagawa vs Vermeulen. Court will be called to order at 11:00am.

The judge will decide whether Erwin Vermeulen is guilty or innocent of pushing Mr. Kitagawa.

I will be there along with many supporters from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Save Japan Dolphins.. A large media presence is expected. I have heard that Private Space may attend. Certainly the Taiji police and the hunters' union will be represented. It is expected to be a lively day for a jig together.

Being with this group of Eco-pirates is always somewhat of a surreal experience for me. Irreverent humor prevails. Tomorrow has been named as Erwin's Hanging Day. Just like in the movies, it would be without precedent for a pirate worth his salt to miss his own hanging day. I expect Erwin will be there smiling, no matter what. My feeling is that he is looking forward to it all.

The best that could happen is for Erwin to be found innocent."Muzai" is the word in Japanese. It is my mantra for the next 18 hours.

What will an innocent verdict mean?

It will mean that the Dolphin Slave Resort owner, their young cry-wolf dolphin trainer Kitagawa, the Japanese police at three levels (Taiji, Shingu, Wakayama), and Ms. I-want-Erwin-in-jail-one-more-day Prosecutor, clearly, obviously, and very publicly screwed the pooch.

While obvious to us that Erwin is innocent, it is not obvious to the Japanese public. An innocent verdict will speak volumes to the Japanese that dolphin lovers are good people.

For dolphin lovers, who already know they are good, Taiji has become a renewed focus because of Erwin's imprisonment. The attempted oppression of Erwin has effectively spread awareness of the dolphin hunt. I cannot thank the authorities enough for this service.

What would a guilty verdict mean?

I don't think that a guilty verdict will change a thing for us. Since Ms. Prosecutor has limited her request from prison time to a small fine, there is now no expectation that Erwin will not get to go home shortly.  Either way, Erwin flies home with friends to his family.

The worst case, a guilty verdict, in my estimation, will just encourage legions of Eco-activists to come to Taiji to see the place where the alleged assault took place. If the alleged assault really happened, wouldn't you like to walk in Erwin's footsteps?  Maybe we can find the evidence of guilt that has so far eluded Japan's finest.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Erwin Vermeulen: Free and Thankful

By Steven Thompson

I got a message today from Erwin. It's the same as it states in the SSCS releases. Erwin said he is overwhelmed by the support. Thanks! That's it.

I have never seen as tight a lid on information for Taiji as now.

As reported yesterday in TDAG by those asking the questions that need to be asked, it is now confirmed that Erwin will not be going to Taiji. He will be on the best behavior that any pirate can be around 15 other pirates in the neighboring town of Kii-Katsuura.

I don't expect any news till Feb 22nd. Join us then from 11:00AM as we do a jig and make good fun of those who thought they could keep dolphin lovers down by arresting them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Erwin Vermeulen: Japanese Political Show Trial?

Erwin Vermeulen: Japanese Political Show Trial?
 By Steven Thompson

Today, in closing arguments, lawyers for the defense railed against the prosecution case citing example after example of how the prosecution failed to prove any allegation of assault against the dolphin trainer. No photo, video or witnesses provide evidence to link Erwin Vermeulen to any violence of any kind. 

 1. A key defense witness testified that Erwin had his hands full with a long-lens camera in his left hand and a walkie-talkie in his right. So, pushing of any sort could not have been done with his hands as the prosecutor claimed.

2. No DNA evidence was found on the alleged victim's jacket. 

3. No bruise or scratch was apparent on the victim's body.
In closing arguments, the lawyer for the prosecution started to back-pedal. No longer asking for a prison sentence, they humbly ask that Erwin be fined 100,000 yen (approx. 1,276usd). It is starting to look like the Taiji police officer in charge of the arrest may be thinking about a career change.

The verdict will be announced on February 22nd. Please join me: let's envision justice for Erwin and the dolphins. Set Erwin free to enjoy his last few days in Japan before his visa runs out. Let the dolphin hunters and trainers know that we will not go away.
However, don't hold your breath for Erwin being found innocent...a country that can imprison an obviously innocent person for 72 days, could come up with anything.

Dolphin Defender's Last Day in Court

BY Steven Thompson

                                                Picture Provided by Pilar Posada
 “If you see a good fight, get in it and fight to win it!” ~Ralph Abernathy's Dad

Erwin Vermeulen will have his last day in court tomorrow, Feb 16th at 10:00am. The Verdict Day, will be Feb 22nd.

This is the time when Erwin's defense team will give their closing arguments for Erwin's release from jail. The prosecution will state their case for encouraging the judge to give Erwin the maximum sentence: 2 years in prison and a fine.

I understood from my conversation with Erwin at the Wakayama Detention Center that he sees himself as a civil AND dolphin rights activist . He seemed happy that the world is watching and that supporters are looking at more ways to do what they do best. 

Let us all do what we do best to end the dolphin hunt.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Nothing Like a Nice Ass

By Steven Thompson

                                          Dolphin Defenders Taiji 2010

So why is TDAG kissing Sea Shepherd ass?
A: Sea Shepherd needs the love? 
B: TDAG is Sea Shepherd? 
C: Sea Shepherds have nice asses?

The conversation yesterday hit a zenith (or nadir) of name calling between those who love dolphins favoring a less aggressive approach and those who love dolphins favoring an in-your-face, give 'em hell, approach. 

The "you are a banana" and "you slipped on a banana" comments got me laughing out loud. Were you reading at the time? Entertaining at least, helping the dolphins, status unknown. 

Actually TDAG hasn't changed. The TDAG position on groups and individuals is still the same: We will support all legal approaches to end the hunt. Our focus is on the ground in Taiji.

We do attract a wide audience, however. Taiji and Wakayama police are known to frequent our page. Pro-hunt individuals who come out straight are welcomed. Even people I can't stand (very few) are welcome if they are actually looking for solutions. We believe that individuals are the key to ending the hunt. We encourage individual action at a local level. In Japan, we support those with boots on the ground in Taiji. It is not easy to witness and report on this much death of those we love.

What we have on the ground, is Erwin Vermeulen currently iin jail for no other reason than helping dolphins. We have our first bona fide case of Civil Disobedience happening right here, right now, everyday at least until Feb 22nd.

One of our goals is to free Erwin. This is a top priority and that means supporting those in his group very strongly till at least Feb. 22nd and through the trial aftermath. He is the only dolphin activist in the world currently in jail for working to end the dolphin hunt. AND it is obvious to me that he is in on trumped up charges.

 I hope you understand. I hope you stay at TDAG and share your positive thoughts for ending the hunt. I hope all dolphin lovers support Erwin and Sea Shepherd during this very challenging time for the organization itself and for Erwin and his family.

Much love,
TDAG Co-founder

No Justice in Taiji for Dolphin Defenders

By Steven Thompson
                     Mr. Masayuki Miyoshi Accosting Rosie Kunneke SSCS Photo
                                       Provided by Martyn Stewart

SSCS Update last week...Feb 3rd including the right wing video in Taiji is hard hitting and clearly shows the ground from the activist perspective. There is nothing hidden and there is not much more to it.
 Calling the Wakayama Prefecture Prosecutor’s Office a "joke" is perhaps what sent 10 or more EXTRA prefecture police to Taiji today and seized the radios. It is too bad Sea Shepherd members were not arrested. Mr Masayuki Miyoshi, is the menace to society who attacked Rosie and Tarah. He also smacked the heck out of me.
Video Provided by Steven Thompson

Monday, February 6, 2012

Interview at a Japanese Jail: Dolphin Defender, Erwin Vermeulen

By Steven Thompson, February 6, 2012  

          Picture of Wakayama Detention Center Provided By Steven Thompson

Wakayama Detention Center, the left door is the entry where the reading materials are checked for contraband. Personal messages are not allowed. Visitors register their names and addresses. We left our cameras and muzzle loaders in lockers provided free of charge. (Picture provided by Steven Thompson)

I met Erwin Vermeulen today at the Wakayama Detention Center, his home at least until February 22nd (photo above). By then, he will have been incarcerated for 70 days for an alleged pushing incident without evidence of any sort.

I went with dedicated activists Scott West and Melissa Sehgal, Cove Guardians working with Sea Shepherd in Taiji Japan. We spoke through glass with an English speaking guard taking notes.

We had a limited time to talk. Erwin can get just one visit per day from up to three people. What would you tell Erwin...ask Erwin if you had the chance and fifteen minutes? We had to talk quickly.

Erwin looked gaunt and pale and hairy. We all touched hands through the glass in the small cold room. We smiled. The guard sat to Erwin's left with a white mask covering his expressions.

We shared personal messages which had been emailed from his girlfriend, family and friends, and even fellow Dutch countryman, Rutger Hauer. which seemed to surprise Erwin. Erwin answered the messages. We shared news of the recent candle light vigils and the messages being collected for him to read later. We took notes. We joked. 

Being around Cove Guardians is fun. After having seen so much death, laughter comes quickly or you don't survive well. Cove Guardians including Erwin see humor in an obviously difficult situation. 

Erwin didn't want another sweater because he said that he was already bundled up like the Michelin Man, or a bearded Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Are you smiling? We were.

He would write more, he said, if he knew that he could keep it. His last writings have been confiscated by Shingu Police. He could have taken his diary with him if every word had been translated from Dutch to Japanese. The Dutch Embassy couldn't find a translator for Erwin; how could Erwin find one? Funny guys those Shigu police officers.

We shared a Dutch news article of the Dutch Parliament's plans to show The Cove movie and increase support for dolphins and whales, all facilitated because of Erwin's inhumane incarceration. We laughed some more. 

Erwin's eyes focused intently on each of us as we spoke in turn. 

There doesn't seem to be anything particularly complicated about Erwin. He loves his family and friends and dolphin and whales intensely. He asked for news from Taiji and from the Southern Ocean Campaign. He asked if he would have the chance to go back to Taiji? We changed the topic. 

Erwin gets up at 7:00am sharp, makes his bed in the freezing cold, and is passed a breakfast tray through a small door from a white mask wearing uncommunicative guard. He is allowed to dump hot water over his body twice a week in a sort of bath and leave his solitary cell once a day for 30 minutes of outside air. He can make his bed to lie more comfortably and warmly only after 4pm. Upbeat music including western tunes are piped into his cell for 6-9pm. I forgot to ask him when he goes to sleep.

He enjoys reading. We brought him nine more books and recent newspapers. His favorite books: Civil Disobedience by Thoreau, The Tao of Pooh and the short stories of RyĆ«nosuke Akutagawa. He seemed tuned in to the impact potential of his incarceration. He has a lot of time to think. 

His food is better than the Shingu hell-hole, but he still feels very much a prisoner. Turning back to the positive: he said he waits attentively for bread, once every five days. He gets to drink soy milk regularly and he occasionally gets a veggie burger. The guard was proud of this and heartily chimed in through his white mask. His English: very good.

Erwin was deeply hopeful that his jail time would be motivational to others to get involved to end the Taiji dolphin hunt. He did not seem like he knew what to do with being so well-known by so many. 

Erwin's stoic message for supporters: "I'm still fine. I'll be back whenever they let me go. Thank you for thinking of me and supporting me and the dolphins. I'm glad that I'm not here for nothing".

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dolphin Defender Supported by Rutger Hauer Film Star

By Steven Thompson

Rutger Hauer Actor and Activist

Rutger Came Through! The discussion on Taiji Dolphin Action Group on Facebook for Erwin Vermeulen and the dolphins hit a wonderful breakthrough. Rutger Hauer, actor and activist, came through with a message for Erwin that we will deliver this week. Rutger clearly supports Cove Guardians.
Thank you TDAG'ers! As always, it is a team effort: the suggestions, the brainstorming, the creativity, the hard work!
Rutger has been deeply affected by fellow Dutch countryman's sacrifice in a Japanese prison and the unjust de facto 70 day jail sentence till at least Feb. 22nd and risk of two more years in a damp cold cell. 
For the dolphins and for us...Till the end of the hunt!