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Greenpeace Faces 1872 Law


— December 13, 2003

The saucy boardinghouse owners of the 1800s were such aggressive marketers that Congress passed a law to stop them from jumping on board harbor-bound ships and luring away sailors with booze and prostitutes. The 1872 law, which bans unauthorized boarding of ships about to arrive in port, never got much of a workout. It was used twice — the last time in 1890 — then disappeared from courtrooms for more than a century.

But now, after a 113-year respite, the law is back in action in an unusual case that pits the Bush administration against one of its peskiest foes: the environmental group Greenpeace. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami filed criminal charges against Greenpeace and a federal grand jury returned an indictment in July, more than a year after two of the group’s supporters scrambled onto a ship bound for the Port of Miami-Dade that they suspected of illegally importing 70 tons of Brazilian mahogany.

Greenpeace, which argued Friday for a dismissal of the charges in a Miami federal courtroom, accuses prosecutors of attempting to suppress the age-old American practice of civil protest. Although it is common to levy criminal charges against individual protesters, Greenpeace says a criminal indictment of an advocacy group is unprecedented and politically motivated.

Details here from The Washington Post.


The saucy boardinghouse owners of the 1800s were such aggressive marketers that Congress passed a law to stop them from jumping on board harbor-bound ships and luring away sailors with booze and prostitutes. The 1872 law, which bans unauthorized boarding of ships about to arrive in port, never got much of a workout. It was used twice — the last time in 1890 — then disappeared from courtrooms for more than a century.

But now, after a 113-year respite, the law is back in action in an unusual case that pits the Bush administration against one of its peskiest foes: the environmental group Greenpeace. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami filed criminal charges against Greenpeace and a federal grand jury returned an indictment in July, more than a year after two of the group’s supporters scrambled onto a ship bound for the Port of Miami-Dade that they suspected of illegally importing 70 tons of Brazilian mahogany.

Greenpeace, which argued Friday for a dismissal of the charges in a Miami federal courtroom, accuses prosecutors of attempting to suppress the age-old American practice of civil protest. Although it is common to levy criminal charges against individual protesters, Greenpeace says a criminal indictment of an advocacy group is unprecedented and politically motivated.

Details here from The Washington Post.

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