Activists Tell of Police Brutality at Miami Protest
- News for Anarchists & Activists:
Activists tell tales of police brutality at Miami protest
by Olivia Nellums
December 17, 2003
Local activists met last Wednesday to discuss events at a
recent Miami protest against international trade policies.
They also presented information and arguments related to
their cause to an audience of about 50 people.
Each individual who protested on Nov. 19 and Nov. 20 against
a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) meeting held in
Miami expressed surprise at the extent of police force.
"We were living under martial law," said Ithacan and Cornell
senior Aubryn Sidle, who was wounded by a lead-filled
beanbag. Participants said that schools and most businesses
were closed in the area of protesting, and that riot squads,
seven helicopters, and even one tank were present at the
demonstration -- which they said was largely peaceful. They
also described police use of weapons such as tear gas,
pepper spray, rubber bullets, batons, and riot shields to
control the movements of the protesters.
There was no mention of anarchists groups who brought
violence to past protests, such as in Seattle against the
World Trade Organization (WTO), but some acts of civil
disobedience were brought into effect.
Community member Matthew Rybnick, 23, also protested in
Seattle but was shocked by Miami. "They weren't police --
they were a paramilitary group," he said in his description
of the scene.
Cornell junior and local Ithacan Danfung Dennis went to the
protest specifically to disagree with agricultural
subsidies, and he thought "the scariest part was how little
media coverage of this event there was." Protesters reported
that at least 10,000 people attended the event.
Those involved in the protests are against the FTAA's plans
to lift certain tariffs and non-tariff barriers in 34
countries in the Western Hemisphere. Many of these
non-tariff barriers are labor laws, environmental laws, and
human rights laws, they say.
The FTAA is operating as an extension of the North American
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and is attempting to unite the
economies of the Americas into a single free trade area by
2005, according to related Web sites. Activists also claim
that FTAA negotiations have been conducted without citizen
input and have largely relied on the advice of corporate
representatives. They worry that under the agreement, local
economies and living standards will suffer at the hands of
multinational corporations vying for power.
Protesters who assembled used puppets, banners and signs,
and chanted, danced, drummed and sung to express their
antagonism, reported Ithacan Travis Bettencourt, 21.
"It is important to maintain space for free speech in the
face of riot squads and helicopters, and to do it without
fear, because the main weapon of the police is fear," said
Most of the protesters and many of those assembled expressed
renewed determination in spite of the reported threats.
All who spoke avoided arrest and viewed their efforts as
successful, with the meetings ending a day earlier than
scheduled and without many of the clauses that protesters
objected to. The FTAA at the end of the protest was "an FTAA
with no teeth," stated community member Dirk Trachy.
One hundred dollars was collected at the meeting for the
legal teams of those protesters arrested. Amnesty
International and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
are calling for federal investigations of police brutality.
Said Trachy, "the most hopeful thing was the solidarity in
-- Olivia Nellums
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