So I’m skimming the news after a few days of blissful ignorance and I stumble across this:
One of the main targets is Greenpeace. Last year, two of its activists boarded a ship that was smuggling illegally harvested rainforest mahogany and unfurled a banner that called on President Bush to act. But instead of going after the smugglers, the Justice Department went out of its way to file criminal charges against Greenpeace, citing an antiquated 1872 law. It’s the first time in our history the government has prosecuted an entire organization for the free speech activities of its supporters. If convicted, it could devastate the group and send a chilling message.
Hmmmm, this sounds kinda ugly - I’m skeptical though and decide to check ’round a bit. First stop is GreenPeace and as expected there’s a wealth of info about this case (here and here).
Well I decide that the whole story is obviously not gonna come from GreenPeace, so further checking renders this from the Miami Herald:
Indeed, this indictment is a puzzlement, coming so long after federal prosecution of the violators. There seems no point to it beyond vindictiveness toward a group that riles the administration. Is this the best use of federal law-enforcement resources? Is it selective prosecution? Why hasn’t Justice applied the same standards to other groups, such as pro-life activists that use similar protest tactics?
Greenpeace lawyers say this is the first time an organization has been prosecuted for the actions of its members. Legal experts point out that southern prosecutors harassed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but note this case is also unusual and questionable. Bruce S. Ledewitz, a law professor at Duquense University who has studied the history of dissent in America told the New York Times “there is not only the suspicion but also perhaps the reality that the purpose of the prosecution is to inhibit First Amendment activities.”
Holding an entire organization liable for the actions of a couple of its supporters sets a dangerous precedent. From the Boston Tea Party to the civil rights movement, direct action in public protest has helped to bring positive change throughout the history of the United States. Direct action is often an effective and legitimate form of advocacy, along with legislative lobbying, litigation, regulatory proceedings, rulemaking, action before administrative agencies, public education, and organizing.
So what are we seeing here? Are we truly seeing selective prosecution of an organization the administration doesn’t care for? Or are we just seeing the Justice Department cracking down on an organization that uses civil disobedience as a political tool?
If GreenPeace is guilty of conspiracy then they (the individuals) should be so charged. If not, then there should be no civil or criminal action. Using the apparent logic of the Justice Dept., Enron and WorldCom (the corporations) should be held liable for their employee’s actions but we’re not seeing anything like that.
Now I’m not a big GreenPeace advocate, but I do support their right to protest in any manner they see fit as long as no one gets hurt in doing so. They’ve been at it a long time with some good results. Should they as an organization be shut down? I’m thinking not, for two reasons:
- GreenPeace (the people and the organization) have protected rights in this nation to speak out against what they perceive to be wrong
- Our gonvernment is supposed to actively champion our rights - not inhibit the rights of those with which the governors personally disagree.
This is one more example of Bush&Co. thinking and acting in a plutocratic and arbitray manner. They gotta go.
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