FTAA protests: Miami Police Out of Control

I was talking with folks at Dave’s birthday party last night (great bash) about the absurdity of Miami spending $16.5 million dollars on security, because “rioters” in Seattle caused $2 million in damage. Economically speaking, it would be more rational to set aside a few million to pay business for any damage caused by “rioters” (assuming any would be caused at all, especially in the absence of police provocation)… but really, we know that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the powers that be attempting to discourage and suppress protest, it’s about their total fear that the average people of this and other countries are going to wage up and realize that the agenda of unrestrained capitalism is destroying their quality of life, standard of living, and threatening the very viability of life on this planet, it’s about how the “Seattle coalition” represents something new and different … it is about the efforts of the Secret Service to systematically exclude (link to Google search) any and all protestors from the Presidential presence, and what that says for the health of democracy and protest in our society at this point.

… everything I heard in advance of the protests against the FTAA in Miami was pretty bad – this included police sweeping in and arresting protest organizers and seizing equipment in advance of the protest. And all my expectations have been fulfilled – even exceeded.

Yesterday, I received an email outlining how a producer for Democracy Now, Ana Nogueira, had been arrested as she covered the protests against the FTAA in Miami. And wrote a letter of protest.

Today, I received this (links to full posting on my personal weblog), an email describing a series of atrocious abuses by police and jail administrators. I haven’t been able to obtain independent confirmation (god forbid the mainstream media cover this – try finding out anything about the treatment of protestors in jail via Google News, for example – nothing), but Democracy Now says “the day was marked by extraordinary police brutality against demonstrators”, and mentions that two of the people working with them were hit by rubber bullets. According to the Miami Herald, there were “almost as many police as there were protestors”… massive overkill; as has been the case at almost every event since Seattle… weeks and months of fear mongering, followed by… nothing. But, what do you read in the New York Times? “Demonstration Turns Violent”

Here’s a Miami Herald quote on the theme of the first paragraph:

AFL-CIO leaders said police kept busloads of demonstrators from participating in the march by blocking access to a pre-march rally.

”They were simply not allowed to enter the protest area,” said AFL-CIO spokeswoman Debra Dion. “Police officers in the perimeter just told them to turn back and go home. These were retirees who had prepared for this for weeks and had gotten on buses at 4:30 a.m. to come to Miami.”

Here’s a New York Times quote:

Lt. Bill Schwartz, a spokesman for the Miami Police Department, said the police did an excellent job maintaining order, with some officials noting that there was not the broken windows and other property damage of the Seattle protests.

“Everything that we’re doing is falling into place like a well-oiled machine,” Lieutenant Schwartz said. “I believe we have been having success so far, which means minimal violence, because of the show of force. Folks who have been around here for a few days see that we are well trained and well manned.”

A “well-oiled machine”. Yo gotta love it. Not.

The Miami Herald also reports on a massive over-reaction by the Miami-Dade police to a protest outside a court house, quoting the police as blandly denying what all observers appeared to confirm: that the police moved in and arrested scores of people for “failing to disperse”, when they were in the process of doing exactly that…

it was the Miami-Dade County police who recorded the single largest number of arrests: 62 people near the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building late Friday.

The standoff began when protesters blocked Northwest 14th Street in a show of solidarity with other protesters facing bond hearings inside the courthouse.

Eventually, protesters moved to the sidewalk, turned from the police and began walking away.

A Herald reporter smelled pepper gas; then, a squad of Miami-Dade police moved in on the protesters, herded them together and began making arrests.

Sgt. Dennis Morales of the Miami-Dade Police Department said undercover police agents had reported that some protesters were picking up rocks.

”We informed leaders to disperse or they would be arrested,” Morales said. “They were not dispersing.”

Told that television images from news helicopters appeared to show the group dispersing on its own, Morales said: “They were becoming unruly.”

Orwellian! Also see the FTAA IMC reports on this assault.

Starhawk says (a report from her is included in the posting on my personal blog):

“This action has truly seen some of the most blatant abuses of police power I¹ve encountered in a long time.”

Thea Lee, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s top international economist, said “I’ve never seen anything like this show of force and the abuse of ordinary people.” (NYT) and “‘The Miami Police Department disgraced itself with an outrageous use of force.” (Miami Herald)

… this says to me that we need to step up our level of commitment, that we need to turn out tens of thousands of protestors to the next event, that we need to hound and harass these bastards from one end of the planet to the other, give them no rest, until they broaden their agenda to reflect the real concerns and needs of the people of this planet.

-Thomas Leavitt