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Published on Friday, April 9, 2004 by the Denver Post

Peaceful Protest Under Attack


Peaceful protest has been a cherished American right since the Boston Tea Party, but that fundamental liberty is under attack in a federal court in Miami.

In 2002, members of the activist environmental group Greenpeace tried peacefully to board a freighter headed for Miami in order to unfurl a banner calling for an end to illegal logging. Greenpeace said the freighter was hauling illegally harvested mahogany, an endangered species. The activists were arrested and fined.

Fifteen months later, the U.S. government went after Greenpeace with zeal that should be reserved for threats to national security. But this case isn't about security; it's about political retribution.

Federal prosecutors charged Greenpeace with a misdemeanor under an obscure 19th century law that forbids pimps from intercepting ships bound for port. The law against "sailormongering" has been used only twice, the last time more than 100 years ago, and in one case the judge said the statute was vague.

There's no precedent for federal prosecutors charging an organization with a crime for its members' peaceful protests. If the federal government had done so in the 1960s, there wouldn't have been NAACP lunch counter sit-ins and perhaps no civil rights movement.

There's reason to think that in the Miami case, the Bush administration is bullying an organization that has been particularly outspoken - and effective - in its criticism of Bush's environmental record.

If the feds win, the government will gain access to Greenpeace's databases and membership lists. The feds also could strip Greenpeace of its non-profit status, thus hurting the group's fundraising.

So if Greenpeace loses, American civil liberties will suffer a setback, and a disturbing legal precedent will have been set.

Today in federal court in Miami, U.S. District Judge Adelberto Jordan may rule on three motions from Greenpeace lawyers. One is a motion to dismiss the charges, another a request for a jury trial, and the third to let Greenpeace see government documents explaining why the feds filed charges. Greenpeace understandably contends the Justice Department has singled it out for prosecution.

Regardless of what Americans think of Greenpeace, they should hope the eco-group wins in court - for the sake of everyone's civil liberties.

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yay Republican America!!

civil war in northern Afghanistan and record opium crops, 600 civilians dead in Iraq this week, and changing the laws back at home to outlaw people lawfully protesting government policy

they should mine the Grand Canyon for ore and ship the gays and first time drug offenders to Cuba while they're at it

the land of the free

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I forgot about this . It's amazing how a story as significant as this can get lost in the shuffle because of all the other shit that's going on.

This is a tangent, but has anyone listened to the new radio/satelite station, Air America? Al Franken's show is great. He's on from noon to three, right up against Rush(I can't get enough of those Oxy's, even though drug users are scum)Limbaugh.

I keep going from optimism to pessimism and back over the prospects of next November. Right now, I think, Bush et al. are on the ropes. Around here, anyways, their collective arrogance is starting to piss off even the Vermonters who Always vote Republican. The Bushies have stepped in shit and either won't see or don't see the tracks they're making on the carpet.

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