Greenpeace USA – 2004-05-20 09:44:39
MIAMI (May 19, 2004) — The Bush administration’s attempt to use an obsolete “sailormongering” law to prosecute Greenpeace failed today when Judge Adalberto Jordan dismissed the charges in the midst of the trial.
Shortly after the Justice Department rested its case, the judge granted Greenpeace’s motion for acquittal, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to send the case to the jury. Greenpeace was the first organization to be prosecuted for the free speech activities of its supporters.
“America’s tradition of free speech won a victory today but our liberties are still not safe,” said Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando. “The Bush administration and its allies seem bent on stifling our tradition of civil protest, a tradition that has made this country stronger throughout its history.
Greenpeace is grateful to everyone who stood with us — from former vice president Al Gore and NAACP Chair Julian Bond to the citizens of Miami and people around the world. We will never give up the struggle to protect our forests, our air, and our water and to build a green and peaceful future.”
The case stems from a protest that took place several miles off the coast of Florida in April 2002. Two Greenpeace activists peacefully boarded a ship that was carrying illegal mahogany wood from the Brazilian Amazon into the Port of Miami. The activists, who clearly identified themselves as Greenpeace, intended to hang a banner that read “President Bush: Stop Illegal Logging.”
The individuals involved in this nonviolent protest were arrested, and misdemeanor charges against them were settled later that year.
However, instead of intercepting the illegal mahogany and prosecuting the smugglers, the Justice Department filed criminal charges against Greenpeace on July 18, 2003. Greenpeace was charged under an obscure 1872 law against “sailormongering,” aimed not at protestors but at unscrupulous 19th-century innkeepers who would attempt to lure sailors to their establishments.
Numerous leaders, legal scholars and groups publicly criticized the prosecution, including Al Gore, Senator Patrick Leahy, the NAACP, the ACLU of Florida, People for the American Way, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Miami Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Denver Post.
A Personal Message
John Passacantando / Greenpeace
It’s over! I’ve been in court in Miami all this week defending our ability to stand up for what’s right for the planet and our right to speak out against environmental abuses
And at 3:30 this afternoon, the judge acquitted Greenpeace on all charges. The prosecution’s case was unproven before we even presented our defense. I wanted you to be among the first to know. Thanks so much for your support.
It’s incredible — in the last couple of weeks 81,311 people like you, all around the world, have e-mailed President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft to condemn this prosecution.
The US Government has never heard from Greenpeace in such strong numbers. It’s a great show of what we can all do together, and I congratulate you.
Together we have won. Bush and Ashcroft have been shown to have been vindictive, using an 1872 law, and shown to be trying to stifle civil disobedience by shutting Greenpeace down.
But Greenpeace is still in business, and we come out of court more determined than ever to stand up for the planet. But we need your help.
The US Government has forced us to spend a lot of time and money defending this case. Money we should be spending defending ancient forests, sailing the high seas to highlight the collapse of ocean eco-systems, campaigning against irresponsible corporations that pollute our air and water at will.
Our campaign to defend ancient forests, in the Amazon — where this Miami case started — and the last remaining ancient forests in the United States, continues. Watch us.
However, the threat to Greenpeace is not yet over. Hard on the heels of the US Government’s case, we may end up in court against Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest corporate producer of global warming gases.
Last year Greenpeace volunteers protested at their headquarters dressed in tiger suits to highlight Exxon’s role in global warming. They didn’t like it, and our volunteers face felony charges. Like Bush, they are trying to shut us up for good.
So please, keep Greenpeace in action, be part of the action. We appreciate your on-going support, and we continue to need it, now that we have faced off Bush’s malicious prosecution.
We couldn’t have done it without you.
Executive Director, Greenpeace