Friday, October 24, 2003

Welcome to the 19th Century!

Ashcroft accuses Greenpeace of 'sailor-mongering'.

Students, Nuns, and Sailor-Mongers Beware

In a Miami federal court, the attorney general charged the environmental group Greenpeace under an obscure 1872 law originally intended to end the practice of "sailor-mongering," or the luring of sailors with liquor and prostitutes from their ships. Ashcroft plucked the law from obscurity to punish Greenpeace for boarding a vessel near port in Miami.

This doesn't even pass the giggle test:

1. Were inducements such as alcohol and sex provided to tempt sailors to leave the vessel in question? No.
2. Was violence or the threat of violence applied to induce sailors to leave the vessel in question? No.
3. Were sailors induced to leave the vessel in question? No.

So, how can it be sailor-mongering if um, no sailors were...'mongered'?

As silly as this seems, it is actually quite a serious matter.

Typical Greenpeace Protest Leads to an Unusual Prosecution

The group is charged with violating an obscure 1872 law intended for proprietors of boarding houses who preyed on sailors returning to port. It forbids the unauthorized boarding of "any vessel about to arrive at the place of her destination."
The last court decision concerning the law, from 1890, said it was meant to prevent "sailor-mongers" from luring crews to boarding houses "by the help of intoxicants and the use of other means, often savoring of violence."

Bush Administration Targets Greenpeace

The charge:

One violation of U.S.C. section 2279, which prohibits persons, "not being duly authorized by law for the purpose," from "[going] on board any vessel about to arrive at the place of her destination, before her actual arrival, and before she has been completely moored".

Now then.

Point the First:

Greenpeace as an organization has been indicted, not the individual members. This is substantially different from past suits or charges against the members committing actual protest activities.

Point the Second:

Charges under this law have not been made since the 19th century. Yet Greenpeace members have performed plenty of 'direct-action' protests of this nature. What has changed?

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