John Passacantando, AlterNet | October 30, 2003
Yesterday the Greenpeace ship MV Esperanza arrived in Miami. However, rather than pulling into port, as Greenpeace ships do throughout the world, she will remain at anchor.
The Port of Miami has refused us entry because John Ashcroft's Justice Department is prosecuting us for a protest action last year. The prosecution is unprecedented. Never before in U.S. history has an entire organization been prosecuted for a peaceful protest by its supporters.
For years we have worked to end environmental destruction and human rights abuses in Brazil's Amazon rainforest. Destruction of these habitats threatens clean air and water, animal and plant species, and the people and cultures who depend on forests for their way of life. Large criminal enterprises, using bribery, extortion, slavery and murder, continue to ravage the Amazon and export their contraband.
Last year, two Greenpeace activists climbed aboard a ship carrying Amazon mahogany wood. They held a banner that said “President Bush: Stop Illegal Logging.”
Instead of halting the shipment, the government is prosecuting Greenpeace in federal court in Miami. It has charged Greenpeace under an obscure 19th-century law never intended for this purpose. A trial is now set for December.
Leading legal experts, quoted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and publications around the world, agree that this prosecution is disturbing and poses a threat to free speech.
From the Boston Tea Party to the civil rights movement, public protest actions have helped bring positive change in the U.S.
Our actions worldwide have played a critical role in, for example, stopping atmospheric nuclear testing, protecting Antarctica from exploitation, and banning radioactive waste dumping at sea.
But if this prosecution succeeds, non-violent protest may become yet another casualty of John Ashcroft's attack on civil liberties.
John Passacantando is the executive director of Greenpeace USA.
Take Action:Contact President Bush and John Ashcroft and tell them to prosecute illegal loggers, not Greenpeace
Contact the authorities in Miami and tell them that they should allow the Esperanza to dock in Miami.