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Greenpeace on Trial
Jamais Cascio, 13 May 04

Not exactly worldchanging, but still worth noting. the US government is taking Greenpeace, the organization, to court in Florida for "sailor mongering," in response to activists boarding a boat bringing illegally felld Amazon mahogany to Miami. Greenpeace says the prosecution is revenge for its criticism of Bush. Given that nobody has been charged with "sailor mongering" since 1890, and the decision to charge the group and not the individuals involved, is arguably an attack on political speech, this is a case well-worth watching closely.

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A potentially worldchanging aspect of this prosecution may be how U.S. activist non-profits--watchdogs and advocacy groups especially--change their program activities as a result of the prosecution, and the federal government's intense scrutiny of Greenpeace.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 14 May 04

In my oppinion this is an unusual case but rather than political winfall I think perhaps the 6 young activists should have found "legal" ways of protest? Maybe that is the reason for the charges against Greenpeace? I support enviromental causes but the act of free speach is allowed but breaking the law is not. If Greenpeace athorized the illigal boarding of the ship then perhaps this is the governments reasons for the unfounded law action. Just a thought. To proceed to trial the government must have something. I think Greenpeace is using this for their own political agenda.

Posted by: Belinda Bailey on 15 May 04

Belinda -

I think I understand where you're coming from on this, but I think there are a couple issues you don't factor in here:

*non-violent civil disobedience has long been recognized as an appropriate form of free speech, and is as American as the Boston Tea Party;

*the use of an obscure, dated law (over a century has gone by since anyone was last charged with it) seems to indicate that the administration *doesn't* in fact have a better case to make;

*the administration is clearly trying to send a message with a chilling effect here. chilling dissent is not a proper role for government

*justice requires equal application of the law. the fact that they're throwing everything they've got at Greenpeace, while FBI agents working to bring to justice violent right-wing militias and fundamentalist anti-abortion terrorist groups (both of whom are believed to actually have killed people) complain of being undermined and underfunded suggests to me that this is more a matter of politics than justice

*justice requires proportion. a move to destroy and bankrupt greenpeace for one non-violent is not proportional, and thus not just.

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 15 May 04



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