Damned if those Greenpeaceniks aren’t sailor mongering again. You know, sailor mongering, the practice of luring seamen off ships with booze and harlots. One of the biggest scourges of the seven seas, sailor mongering is the charge Attorney General John Ashcroft has brought against Greenpeace for boarding a ship the organization suspected was importing illegal mahogany near Miami in April, 2002.
Occasional Greenpeacer and Missoula local Twilly Cannon was there for the rabble rousing and describes it this way:
“It was a very routine ship-boarding action. We’ve done these all over the world, and I’ve been a part of these actions all across the states.”
After trying to board the APL Jade—Cannon was not one of the boarders, but was providing support from a separate motorized inflatable raft—in an attempt to hang a “President Bush, Stop Illegal Logging” banner, two activists allowed themselves to be arrested, pleaded guilty and were charged with misdemeanors. The Coast Guard never caught up with Cannon’s crew, and so they weren’t arrested. Flash forward a year and a half and the Justice Department is using an 1872 sailor-mongering law to file a federal indictment against all of Greenpeace.
Cannon isn’t surprised at Ashcroft’s tactics.
“They have been raising the stakes,” he says. “In a similar action in Savannah that I was part of, with people from around the world, the immigration officers were there threatening to have people deported.”
Cannon claims that the government is also using the Internal Revenue Service to obstruct Greenpeace’s operations.
“With the IRS, the INS and the Justice Department involved, this is really a marked escalation in reaction to what has traditionally been looked at as First Amendment activities,” he says. “And remember, they’re not going after all nonprofits, just the ones that protest the actions of the Bush administration.”
At stake is Greenpeace’s future. If convicted, the organization could lose its tax-exempt status, be charged with a $10,000 fine and put on probation, requiring it to report its actions to the government.