February 06, 2004
jury uses ancient law
of archaic law for use in the modern age is nothing new.
The Bibles Ten Commandments, though written thousands
of years ago, still hold their value in modern society.
The Constitutions guarantees are often seen as justification
for current situations that were hardly imaginable more
than 200 years ago.
But when an old, seemingly forgotten law was dusted off
in order to punish the environmental activism group Greenpeace,
both eyebrows and cries of impeding freedom to protest
Greenpeace demonstrators recently boarded a cargo ship
full of 70 tons of rain forest-quality mahogany bound
for the Port of Miami from Brazil. Two protesters, both
expert climbers hired by Greenpeace, were
stopped and arrested on the obscure misdemeanor charge
of sailor mongering before they could unfurl
a banner reading President Bush, stop illegal logging.
The story, however, did not end there.
Some 15 months after those arrests, a federal grand jury
indicted Greenpeace itself, under a 19th century federal
law enacted to stop pimps from clambering aboard ships
The law, which hasnt been prosecuted since 1890,
was put in place to protect sailors from the temptations
of wine, women and song, and ultimately a quick separation
from their hard-earned money while in port.
Though the law seems somewhat trivial, its consequences
are anything but.
If convicted, Greenpeace could be fined $10,000 and placed
on five years of probation, a definite deterrent to future
activism. The group would also have to regularly report
to a federal probation officer, placing them under serious
scrutiny. Worse yet, a criminal conviction would likely
cost Greenpeace its tax-exempt status, the kiss of death
for any non-profit group.
While Greenpeaces tactics are sometimes questionable,
its intentions are hardly those of 19th century pimps.
Coaxing sailors out of money and raising awareness of
global crimes against the environment are hardly in the
The only crime here is the fact that our government would
so blatantly attempt to resurrect an outdated law to all
but squash a pesky, protest-based organization. A dangerous
This is a staff editorial from the OSU Daily Barometer
of Oregon State University. It was distributed by U-Wire.