www.globalresearch.ca Centre for Research on Globalisation Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation
Al Crespo, the Miami photojournalist, whose award-winning book, Protest In The Land Of Plenty, chronicles the protest movement from-1997 - 2001, wrote the following journal over the last 10 days.
This 20,000 word journal chronicles the protests from the beginning of the 3 day March by Root Cause on Sunday, November 16th, through the last arrests of protesters engaged in a Jail Solidarity Rally on Friday, November 21st , and provides his observations and impressions of what occurred in Miami during last week's FTAA protests, both from the point of view of a working photojournalist on the street, as well as from his ability to provide a contextual perspective to these events based on his extensive experience in having attended and photographed over 100 previous protests.
The journal provides a first hand view of what happened on the streets as police engaged in illegal and questionable behavior as well as clashing with protesters, and offers short essays on a number of specific events that occurred during the week. He also provides an essay raising questions about the future of anarchists and the Black Bloc at these kinds of protests, and raises additional questions regarding police behavior and practices that will no doubt be raised again should the growing requests for a Congressional investigation lead to such an undertaking,. He closes with an essay addressed to FTAA protesters raising some questions about their tactics and goals.
This journal is being provided, not as any kind of definitive version of the events of last week, but rather as a way to stimulate discussion and debate about this event, and about larger questions concerning the direction of future protests in this country. With the recent revelations that the FBI has begun to investigate and review the actions of protesters and questioning the practices of protest leaders, it is time that those who would choose - or have it chosen for them - the process of going into the streets to affect public policy, look with a critical eye to all that has transpired in recent years, and discuss openly and frankly the methods by which the goals that they seek to accomplish be achieved and not be undermined by those who would use some of the tactics of current protest actions against the efforts of those seeking to improve the state of our world, and our country.
THE FTAA PROTESTS - THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE IN MIAMI
"Freedom is a beautiful thing, I would first say, and aren't you lucky to be in a country that encourages people to speak their mind. And I value going to a country where people are free to say anything they want to say."
- President George Bush, responding to interviewer David Frost's question about the protestors expected to greet his presence in London last week.
"F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies"
New York Times headline November 23, 2003
(Chief) Timoney said it was the union's insistence on opening the rally and march to non-union demonstrators intent on violence that triggered a series of events resulting in police-protester clashes and traffic jams.
"The Miami Police Department and its law enforcement Partners, in training for the FTAA, placed primary emphasis on avoiding the use of force," (a letter sent To the media on Tuesday.) " This goal was impossible To achieve due to the violent actions of unaffiliated protesters using labor events and membership as cover,"
Miami Herald November 26, 2003
SUNDAY: FEAR AND LOATHING IN FORT LAUDERDALE - SORRY ABOUT THAT HUNTER
The good thing about most protest marches is that they never start on time, so even though I was a half hour late, the protesters who had gathered in a little park in Fort Lauderdale were still milling around.
The crowd, numbering a little over 150, was largely made up of young people, with a sprinkling of middle-aged folks, and a noticeable number of Mexican and Central American farm workers, some with their small children. Everyone seemed to have been provided with a bright yellow tee shirt from the group Root Cause: Global Justice From The Grassroots.
They were a cheerful bunch as they started out, winding through neighborhood streets as they made their way to US-1 for the turn southward toward Miami. And it's a good thing that they turned south. Friday afternoon, leaders of the march were served with an injunction from the City of Pompano, forbidding them from bringing the march through their city. To understand how insanely stupid this useless injunction was, you have to understand that the City of Pompano is NORTH of Fort Lauderdale. It's like Canada getting an injunction to stop Americans from marching through Canada on their way to Mexico. But, when you've got a bunch of dim-witted politicians who felt the need to make a political statement even if it's a stupid one, what can you expect. At least you know if you ever go to Pompano that the city fathers are not only capable of useless political pandering, but they obviously don't know the difference between north and south either.
Of course it's been that kind of idiocy that has colored so many actions by governmental and civic leaders throughout south Florida for weeks now. The average citizen doesn't seem to be doing much better either as a result of all of this fabricated nonsense and fear mongering.
After tagging along with the marchers for a while in the morning I went to a coffee shop further south on US-1 to download my images into my laptop so that I could send them off to my photo agency in New York.
No sooner had I entered the shop that it became evident that the topic de jour as people lined up to get their coffee was the protest march. One woman came in asking if the protesters had done any damage yet. Others generally groused, or half joked about the protesters attacking the coffee shop - it was a Starbucks after all.
And then, the protesters passed by chanting as they walked. Those inside, including the employees I'm sure, had a few anxiety filled moments, perhaps fearing that this brightly tee-shirt crowd peacefully walking by might turn, and in rage, try to clamor through the doors to storm the counter and breakup the cappuccino machine.
But, it was soon over, and as the chants faded, I heard one customer say, "Oh, it was only some farm workers," in the kind of snarky disdain, that for the zillionth time in my life made me wish I had a magic wand that would have let me transport her stupid, arrogant ass into the middle of a tomato field somewhere so that she could get an up close and personal experience of what "only" being a farm worker meant.
In my car, heading towards Miami awhile later, I talked with a close friend who has a daughter in the high school in Hollywood, about 15 miles north of downtown Miami. He told me that her school was going into lockdown for the week for fear that with nothing better to do, protesters might decide to come north to Hollywood and invade the school and like revolutionary versions of dope pushers, and lure the unsoiled little darlings inside into a life of anarchism and depravity.
But what can you expect when those who are expected to have common sense, turn out to have cow shit for brains. Another friend, with another child in the Coral Gables High School - about 5 miles west of downtown Miami, wrote me last week, with this lament.
"I have just heard from my Coral Gables High School student son that they will close the school for the week as there will be demonstrations and rioting at the Biltmore Hotel.... This makes total sense to us... NOT!! Yes, let the kids out so they can go join up in a politically motivated civil scare...We are pissed."
Another friend, with a child in another high school even further away from downtown Miami went to a PTA meeting 2 weeks ago to be told by the principal that, " Five percent of these protesters coming to Miami are professional troublemakers, and their prime source of recruits is in the high schools and colleges."
Lost amid all of this fear mongering is the notion that perhaps high schools might seize the opportunity to use this situation to explore such topics as the first Amendment, free speech and the rights of protest. You know, things that are part of our Constitution and Bill Of Rights. But you can't do that if you close down the school, or if you're prepared to barricade the doors to fight off illusionary attacks by "professional troublemakers."
And of course, as we enter the days of protest, it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Shop keepers beginning to board up window like they would for a hurricane. Police are blanketing the streets, while people in cars gawk as they look for those pesky protesters they've heard about on TV. At the same time millions of dollars of protester resistant fencing is going up all over downtown Miami, while crews prepare TV satellite trucks to beam the expected "Fray By The Bay," to the world.
But, like little Orphan Annie used to sing, there's always a tomorrow, and tomorrow the promise is that some protesters will be taking their clothes off in front of a Gap store on trendy South Beach, as the marchers continue marching towards Miami, and the serious business of protest begins.
Miami, on a beautiful cerulean blue sky Monday morning looks like it's preparing for a big ambush. TV camera crews are walking around sorting out sight lines and angles, Cops on bicycles are riding around getting used to working in bike formation, and on occasion figuring out how they can ride through buildings as a way to go quickly from one street to another. Other cops, mostly Highway Patrol, are stationed on almost every corner of the city looking like sentries ready to relay an early warning signal at the first sign of approaching protesters. A few stores have boarded up for the week, but for the most part the streets and the stores are eerily quiet. Everyone's just kind of waiting.
As for the protesters - or the Indians if you want to go with the analogy of a western town preparing for an Indian attack - no disrespect to the Indians, so don't write me saying I must be racist to even suggest such a thing - well, they pretty much figured out what they were going to do a while back. Now it's just a matter of waiting for everyone to show up and doing it.
At the moment it looks like most of the protesters, if they've arrived are trying to stay off of the streets for fear they might be arrested before anything starts. They have ample reason to be fearful. Today I photographed a platoon of bicycle cops who had encircled a mini-van in a parking lot on NE 2nd Street and 1st Avenue. Later in the afternoon I attended a press conference in front of the Miami City Hall called by a number of protest groups to voice their complaints about police harassment, but more of that later. As I promised you yesterday, today was the day of the big nude-in in front of the GAP store on Collins Avenue in South Beach.
WE INTERRUPT THIS FLOW FOR A NEWS FLASH
While writing this I got a call from a fellow photographer whom I'd given some suggestions to regarding preparations for going out into the streets this week. The one thing I suggested was getting a tear gas mask, especially since the City Commission, had in their wisdom seen the light and decided that everyone should be allowed to have one if things go south. Well, my friend just told me that when they went to a store to buy one, they were told that the police had been in and told the owner not to sell any gas masks to anyone who "looked like a protester."
So I guess that's the way things are becoming in this city. You pass a law saying you can have something, and then the police go around and tell the storeowners not to sell it to you. Makes sense to me, after all, this is Miami. Now back to the flow of tonight's journal.
THE GAPATISTIAS ARE COMING, GRAB YOUR CAMERA
The promise of protesters taking their clothes off on South Beach this afternoon served as a clarion call for anyone with a camera to quit what they were doing, and head for the beach. Scheduled for 2 PM, when I arrived at 1 PM, a dozen of Miami's leading press photographers had already gathered in the shade across the street, grousing as all still photographers tend to do at these kinds of events as they watched the TV guys getting in position TV guys always get in the way, and since most of them are hefty - you got have some heft to lug a Betacam around all day - we always find ourselves in some sort of pushing match in order to get a decent shot.
We weren't there long before the helicopter showed up. Not just any helicopter, but a dark brown military helicopter, which proceeded to circle and circle and circle. Make a note all you conspiracy buffs, the black helicopters are now brown, and one of the still guys with a long lens was sure that there was guy in some sort of uniform behind some sort of gun mount. Only in the movies can a 400mm-lens act like a 2000-mm lens, so I take his word on what he could see with his 400.
As the appointed hour crept near, so did we, joined by even more photographers, TV cameramen and women, people who weren't photographers, but who had cameras, a smattering of model types, people from all the stores in the area, plenty of Miami Beach's finest, and within this scrum of bodies numbering probably 200, 5 protesters who found themselves penned in against a GAP window when one of the young women held up a hand lettered sign that said "Hemp Is Better Than Cotton."
Everybody went to motor drive. When the young woman made a V sign, the cameras sounded like machine guns. She stood, she posed, she answered a few questions about why hemp was better than cotton, and then her 4 friends joined her in a group hug, and they proceeded to sit down on the sidewalk and started eating a healthy vegetarian lunch. Protesters do that a lot - eat healthy vegetarian lunches, unlike porkers like me who heads for a Wendy's when I feel like eating upscale.
Of course, our interest immediately shifted to the sound of a drum, and a handful of people carrying banners who had somehow managed to come marching from the direction of the beach.
This was the main attraction. Led by a young man named Martin Lemke who operated like the master of ceremonies, a series of speakers proceeded to rake the GAP company, and the Fisher family who are the largest stakeholders in the company that owns GAP, Banana Republic and Old Navy, over the coals for their foreign labor practices, the clear cutting of old growth forest property that they own in Northern California, and generally for being lousy corporate citizens.
Of course, all this was done in the mid-afternoon sun, and after about the 3rd speaker some of the photographers and reporters were beginning to lose interest. I too, started getting restless, so I decided to explore the photo opportunities of the crowd that had gathered behind all of the photographers and camera people, and came across a scene which confirmed my worst fears about the power of South Beach to corrupt even the most stalwart.
There in the shade by the GAP's front door were a couple young people - kids to me, since I don't think any of them could have been over 18 - trying to look fierce by wearing black and white bandanas as masks. The anarchists had finally invaded South Beach. As I stood there, another photographer - not a press photographer - walked up and told the three, " Strike a pose."
And they did!
The horror of it all! They hadn't been on South Beach a hot minute and already they were acting like models. Looking fierce, flexing biceps about as big as my wrist, they proceeded to act just as sultry and menacing as any other wannabe model who was told to look tough.
South Beach, your mojo is awesome.
And then it was over, and I moseyed back to hear the speakers, waiting like everyone else for them to take their clothes off. But, these were pros, and they had an audience they knew would disappear as soon as they took their clothes off, so they milked it by announcing that they were going to sing a few songs before they took their clothes off.
Out of somewhere came lime green copies of a Sing Along with the GAPATISTAS, song flyer.
So, to let you share in the moment, here's one of the songs that they sang. You to can sing along as you read this:
IT'S A SWEATSHOP AFTER ALL (sung To It's A Small World After All)
It's a world of profit, a world of greed It's a world of children sewing seams Workers strife, and we don't care We exploit everywhere It's a sweatshop after all
CHORUS: It's a sweatshop after all Chop down trees and build a mall Corporate profits never fail It's a corporate world.
They don't care one bit if their workers cry They don't care a smidge even if some die Dead workers take no pay There's more born every day It's a sweatshop after all
CHORUS: It's a sweatshop after all Chop down trees and build a mall Corporate profits never fail It's a corporate world.
For this exploitation we will not pay Work a 9 to 5 each and every day Our responsibility Is to all humanity..(pause) There's enough on earth for all
CHORUS: No more sweatshops anywhere Show the world that people care The world is here for us to share It's a small.small.world
Finally, the moment we'd all come for arrived. They were going to strip. But, just as everyone started getting their fingers on the button, one of the folks announced that they were only going to strip to their underwear because the Miami Beach Police had told them that if they stripped down to skin, they'd get arrested.
An hour in the hot sun for photographs of people in their underwear? Hell, if we'd all walked down the block to the beach we could have taken photos of all the Europeans lounging on beach chairs, topless and G stringed.
The pictures were taken, but with less enthusiasm than we would all have had at an hour before. I took my pictures and headed for Miami City Hall, where serious business was going on.
YOU MAY BEAT THE RAP, BUT YOU CAN'T BEAT THE RIDE
This catchy little phrase is what protesters are saying the cops are beginning to say to them, as in, you might not get convicted of anything, but we're going to arrest you and lock you up anyhow.
The press conference outside of City Hall was a far different affair than what had transpired on the beach. Instead of a couple hundred photographers and TV folk, there were maybe 20 total.
The speakers included John de Leon whose working for the ACLU, Max Rameau, of the Miami Workers Center, Lisa Fithian of United for Peace and Justice, Henry Harris, a member of the Legal Observer Team who have committed to being out in the streets to monitor the situation, and several other folks whose names I didn't get.
The thrust of their charges was serious. Miami Police have been targeting and harassing protesters, including, but not limited to the cases that have been reported in the Herald. Harris was the legal observer cited in a recent Herald story as having been arrested along with the protesters who were reported to have been arrested for "blocking the sidewalk."
What's interesting about Harris is that he was more or less the moderator for the protest groups when they met 2 weeks ago with representatives of the city the police and the community relations board to discuss what could be termed as the rules of engagement by the police and the protesters.
At that time, the police Major who was the spokesman for the police department was very clear that legal observers would not be targeted or arrested, and here 2 weeks later, Harris, who was among the most prominent speakers at that meeting gets arrested while acting as a legal observer.
The protesters fear massive, preemptive arrests starting perhaps as early as tomorrow, in an effort by police to both disrupt the protesters, and to try and head off any massive acts of civil disobedience. There was more regarding the concerns that these individuals expressed, some of it dealing with speculation which can wait till tomorrow or the next day when we'll have a very clear picture of what's happening on the streets.
SO WHERE'S THE MAYOR????
I've come to like Manny Diaz, the Mayor of Miami. After years of this city being in the grip of nutcases like Joe Carollo and Xavier Suarez, it was nice to see a competent adult working in an orchestrated way to try and make a difference.
I liked him, that is, until about a month ago. Why don't I like him now? Simple. He's pulled a disappearing act that has made him more invisible then Casper the Ghost. No matter where you come down on free trade, or the protests you can't underestimate the importance and the impact of all of this on this city. Yet, for the last month, the mayor has been completely invisible. Not a peep has come out of him or his office on any of this.
I guess the Mayor decided that silence and a low visibility is the way to demonstrate leadership in a time of potential crisis. What a shame. If there was ever a time for a leader to step forward, this is it. Imagine New York after 9/11 if Rudy Giuliani had decided to hide in his office?
Not only should the mayor show up and glad hand all the visiting dignitaries who are coming in, he should have already been out in the streets. If anyone should have been walking the streets assuring the downtown business owners that it was okay for them to keep their shops open, it should have been the mayor, not union representatives and protesters passing out flyers while shadowed by police on bicycles.
When the protesters opened their Convergence Center, he should have shown up with a Proclamation welcoming them to the city, and telling them, that this is a city that welcomes and supports the rights of free speech and protest.
Of course he could also have told them that if some of them decide that they want to run around and trash this city and fight the police, well the city was ready for that too. And not only ready, but planning to win any and all the fights, if some of the protesters wanted to go that route.
Tough times call for tough leaders, or at least visible ones.
A CORRECTION TO LAST NIGHT'S JOURNAL
Last night I wrote about a friend whose son was at Coral Gables High School, and how the school was closing for the weekShe wrote me this morning with this correction:
"Now it seems that CGHS is not closing and will in fact house the students from DASH High School during this period. There is a lot of confusion and very little info coming out except what the kids hearing. The school websites tell nothing of what is rumored. Ah try calling the school and see what kind of amazing info you get there..."
And so it goes. Tomorrow a number of meeting are scheduled at the Gusman, and at churches throughout downtown, which means that the protesters will have to start coming into the city in sizable numbers. And, there are several protest events scheduled including the arrival in Miami of the marchers who started out in Fort Lauderdale yesterday. All of it makes for a day that could reveal much.
IF IT'S TUESDAY IT MUST MEAN THAT THE COPS ARE DRESSING UP TO SCARE PEOPLE
As the sunset over Miami Tuesday evening the downtown area of the city was for all practical purposes under martial law. Hundreds of Miami and Miami-Dade police in riot gear either loitered on street corners or marched through city streets. Trucks welding water cannon were tucked behind fences blocking access to the Port of Miami, other fencing blocked all of the area south of Flagler Street from the bay to the boulevard, and then south to the bay again. Most other streets had Highway Patrol cars parked at the corners, with police on horseback riding up and down the boulevard and bicycle police in platoons of 30-35 cruised through the side streets. On would have thought that the federal government had declared a Code Red and Miami had been identified as ground zero for the next calamitous attack by Al-Qaeda, but no, it was worse than that. The migrant workers were coming. But let me not get ahead of myself. We always start in the morning
Stopped by the Convergence Center at 23rd Street and North Miami Avenue around 9:30 AM just in time to catch the last two sentences of a press conference, which had allowed the corporate press to come in and take pictures, and there was a bit of a food fight going on as various TV reporters scurried around trying to get people to interview, while everyone with a camera took photos.
My plan was to get downtown so I talked with a couple folks and walked out the front door in time to see a Miami Police car with 5 people in it slowly do a U turn at the front door and head south, while two young people standing on the corner called out the license number and commented on this was the 2nd time in 10 minutes that the car had done that. The two young people it turned out were monitoring police traffic around the Convergence Center, and a peek at the notepad the young woman was writing all this information down revealed that there seemed to be quite a bit of cruising being done by the police. I loitered across the street for a while, waiting to see if a police car would come by that I could photograph, and while I waited I noticed a brown van two blocks to the south of me slowly ease out from behind a building to where it could have a vantage point of the front of the Convergence Center. It stayed in that position for about 5 minutes, and then slowly eased back from view.
I gave up waiting, drove downtown, unloaded my bike and began to cruise around downtown. Halfway through my ride, I got a call telling me that the police were on the way to the Convergence Center to shut it down. Huffing and puffing, I pedaled to my car, told a couple other photographers about the raid, and we all piled in my car like Keystone Cops heading north. Halfway there, it turned out to be a false alarm.
But we went over anyhow, loitered across the street for a while, talked to some folks, and I speculated on whether the police might be lurking behind the tinted windows of the building just south of the Center. One of my colleagues gestured towards the Salvation Army building to the west and said, " They don't have to hide, they're out in the open on the roof of the Salvation Army." And there they were, three cops in plain site. I wonder what kind of reasoning the police gave the Salvation Army that they would let the police up on their roof.
By then, it was getting close to noon, and we headed back downtown to cover the press conference being held at the Torch of Friendship at Bayfront Park.
It was a dispiriting affair. Once again, the press outnumbered the demonstrators, and having quit the demon weed myself many years ago I didn't figure I needed to hang around to hear about the dangers of cigarettes, so I took a few photos, and decided to download my pictures and send them off.
While I was doing all of this I got a call alerting me to the rumor that the cops had blown up a package over by the Wolfson campus of the Community College. I finished downloading, and moseyed over to see what the bomb story was all about.
SORRY WE FUCKED UP YOUR CAR, WE THOUGHT YOUR ART SUPPLIES WAS A BOMB
There is no small irony that on a major avenue in Miami, which still bears the name of a guy who went to prison for bank fraud -Abel Holtz Boulevard - Miami police and ATF agents unleashed their considerable powers of deduction and destruction to pretty much wreck the car of 2 Miami kids as the result of a phony bomb scare.
One of the two is a young woman, an FIU art student, whose art supplies for an upcoming FIU art show were in the back seat. On who knows what kind of evidence, the cops, convinced that they had a potential bomb on their hands, broke the car's back windows, drilled holes through the doors, screwed up the trunk lock, and left the car inoperable.
This is what I learned when I walked up to the two young people still in somewhat of a shock, but getting angry as it all started to sink in.
This is how the young people say it happened.
They said that they pulled up in front of the Miami Subs on NE 2nd Avenue across the street from the Wolfson Campus of Miami-Dade Community College close to noon. They got out of their car, put money in the meter, walked north to 4th Street, turned right, walked one block, crossed Biscayne Boulevard to the Torch of Freedom, and joined the painfully small number of demonstrators who were taking part in an anti-tobacco protest rally at the Torch.
While they were gone, Miami Police, ATF, and who knows who else spotted the possible bomb in their car and supposedly "blew up" a Grey, 5 gallon plastic drum of paint that the girl was taking to school for an FIU art show.
After the rally, the couple started back towards their car. Somewhere along 4th street they were stopped by police, who asked for ID. After the ID check, they were told that earlier on the police had received a report that two people, after parking the car, were seen "running away from it."
On that basis, the police claim that they came in, spotted the can of paint and art supplies, and decided that it looked like a potential bomb to them, and they did what they did. As a parting gift, the cops gave the couple a police report with a case number and told them the City would repair the car. Obviously, another example of Miami taxpayer dollars working to make the city a better place to live.
Now I wasn't there, although, it seems that people were, and unbeknownst to the cops someone actually videotaped their actions, but here's why I believe these two young people. The streets in downtown Miami are almost completely deserted. On the corner of 3rd Street and 2nd Avenue, less than 50 feet where these kids parked their car were 3 Florida Highway patrol cars on both corners. Highway patrol officers were all over the street. Midway further north on 2nd Avenue were other police, and because the Community College is across the street, the whole neighborhood is among the most heavily guarded in the city. Had these young people even thought of walking fast from their car, much less running, they would have gang tackled or shot.
Furthermore, if it was a question of ID'ing the owners of the car, and getting these two young people back to the car to do so, the police could have done so because as I walked around Biscayne Boulevard to and from the rally I clearly and distinctly heard conversation on the police radios of the police that I passed as they kept track of people walking around the area. You cannot be on downtown streets without a cop physically watching you or someone from a rooftop or someone from a helicopter. And they talk to each other, such as," He's coming your way, wearing a blue tee shirt with a backpack." So I am willing to bet that from the moment these two young people got out of their car, until they were stopped coming back they were under constant surveillance by police. In fact, besides all of the police on the streets, 4 police cars pulled up on Biscayne Boulevard while the press conference was going on.
There's really no excuse for this happening, especially the nonsense about the police got word that two people were seen running from the car. That's just stupid bullshit.
I would think that these kids have a case for police harassment, and that they should go out and find the meanest, nastiest, junkyard dog lawyers in Miami and sue the shit out of the city.
Which brings us back to the beginning of tonight's journal.
ONE PENNY MORE
As the sun set on Miami this evening, and the hundreds of police in riot gear massed on various street corners, they did so in anticipation of the arrival of the Migrant Farm Workers from Immokalee.
Three days ago, 150 plus hearty protesters marched south from Fort Lauderdale to call attention to their opposition to the FTAA, and to continue the call for growers to pay the tomato pickers one penny more per pound for the tomatoes they pick.
After three days, weary, and needing baths, their ranks had grown to around 700, as they arrived in Miami. The marchers were jubilant. They cheered as they reached the security fences blocking access to the Inter-Continental Hotel.
It was a goal that I think seemed out of reach to some when they started.
And on that hopeful note I'll end tonight's journal. It's almost midnight, and tomorrow promises to be a day when we'll begin to see the real strategies of both the police and the protesters. Sorry if this journal isn't as witty as the 2 previous one have been, but from here on in I don't expect to find too much humor or irony on the streets of Miami.
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday as the sun set over Miami, we saw the largest concentration - since the riots of the early 80's - of police in riot gear that made not only this writer, but many others who were on the streets last night agree that it looked like Marshal Law had been imposed. All of this to deal with about 600-700 weary marchers, many of them migrant workers, who had been walking for 3 days.
This evening as the sun set over Miami, a march of almost 3000 steelworkers in brightly colored blue tee shirts made its way through the downtown streets and up the boulevard on their way to a private dinner at the Hard Rock Café. There were no riot police on the streets, and none other than Chief of Police Timoney led the protesters along their way on his bicycle.
I managed to slip by the police security that bared access inside of the side entrance to Bayside and walked with the steelworkers as they lined up to enter the Hard Rock Café. Unlike last night's tense, and often mean spirited moments - such as when police in riot gear stood in front of a row of Porta Potties, and refused to let the protesters use any but one of them, the crowd of steelworkers and their fellow AF of L police union colleagues from the Hialeah Police Department, shook hands, clapped each other on the back, and exchanged warm welcomes to Miami.
In one exchange, a union member asked a Hialeah police officer, " You know why we're here, don't you?" and the police officer responded, " Yes I do, and we're here to protect you."
Since the steelworkers are here seeking protection from low cost steel coming in from other countries, it's reassuring to know that the Hialeah Police Department has decided to protect the steelworkers against this problem. But of course that wasn't what the police officer was referring to when he made his comment, he was referring to those nasty little protesters who have come to blow up the city, and possibly screw up the big union protest march tomorrow.
SPEAKING OF NASTY LITTLE PROTESTERS
You know, sometimes life works in mysterious ways. We all have karma, sometimes good, and sometimes bad. Today, it would seem, the Miami Police Department had very good karma.
Sometime around noon today, 7 squatters, who have now been charged with burglary for starters, were arrested on the grounds of the old Burdines mansion on Bayshore Drive and 69th street.
Several of us photographers heard about this around 3:30 PM, and drove over to see what was what. When we got there, the first thing I heard was a Miami-Dade cop complaining about how the crime scene had been left open for 3 hours. A few moments later to my surprise, 5 other photographers and myself were told that we would be escorted in the see this crime scene. I was surprised because the information that I had originally gotten was that some anarchists had supposedly vandalized or sprayed messages on the walls of this house, and now it was a crime scene, which seemed that more was at hand then some spray paint.
Sure enough, we were escorted through a weed infested yard, around the big house to a smaller carriage house in back and crawled though a partially plywood covered doorway into a totally destroyed interior, up some dark stairs into a room where on the floor were a number of potential items that could be used as weapons and other items all neatly laid out.
In this room, Lt. Bill Schwartz, the public information officer for the Miami Police Department made a rather impressive and facile presentation of all the items that were neatly laid out on the floor.
There were a couple small prybars, which Lt., Schwartz pointed out were the kinds of weapons that anarchists had used in Seattle to break window. There was a length of chain, which if you wrap around your hand makes a dandy weapon. There was the kickstand from a bicycle, which could also be used as a weapon. There were 2 walkie-talkies, the kind you can by at Office depot for $30. There were 2 small red canisters he said were filled with fuel that could be used to make Molotov cocktails.
There were also several books, a gas mask, a couple tee shirts hung on a wall with revolutionary slogans, and a free verse poem written in Spanish on the door, and clearly written for someone to find at some time in the future, along with a couple other things written on the walls and doors, some in Spanish, and some in English.
One special piece of evidence were several bicycle inner tubes which the Lt. indicated could be used as giant slingshots capable of firing sizable rocks or other projectiles that could easily knock someone's block off. The Lt. did concede after I questioned him, that protesters in this country had ever to his knowledge used any such weapon.
There were also some body diagrams on the wall which the Lt. pointed out were suitable for martial arts practice on where and how to hurt someone. The Lt. also pointed out marks on the wall where it looked like someone had been practicing. The only problem, as several of us realized later when we looked at our photographs was that the drawing indicated that either the protesters, or their potential victims had to be midgets, and very small ones at that, so it's hard to say what the marks on the wall really represented.
After all of these months, and all of the fear mongering that has been going on in this community about the dangerous anarchists, and how they were going to come to Miami and destroy it, it sure is good that these 7 individuals were caught on the first day of the FTAA meeting with all of these weapons. I know I am relieved, since at most of the protests I've covered I'd have to say that we photographers have been the subject of as much verbal abuse, and at times physical attacks by these kids trying to break our cameras, or screw up our lenses, as have the police. (See page 64 of my book for an example.)
I do have just a teeny bit of wonder about how pat the whole thing seemed. It looked like a perfectly set dressed, made for TV news event, useful as a way to justify all the rhetoric about potential violence, and to provide cover for the police for whatever happens tomorrow on the streets as a necessary response to this kind of potential violence by evil anarchists. But then, I live here, and I've seen, like all of you who live here too, officers from this same police department charged with planting guns on dead people to justify killing them.
PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL
A couple nights ago there was an incident that was widely reported on Channel 7, and perhaps-other stations as well, but I first heard about it from folks who saw it on 7. The incident had to do with the City demanding that the county take down a tent city that they were erecting on NW 7th Avenue and 17th Street to house many of the protesters who had expected to find Miami, like some of the other cities they've been too, able to provide some minimal housing and bathing facilities. A lot of effort supposedly went into reaching an agreement between the city, the county and the state to arrange for this campsite.
But, in the end - and I haven't a clue as to what prompted the city's decision to shut the campsite down - it was closed.
A number of interesting things seem to have happened as a result of this, the first being that Channel 7, as part of its coverage, provided a hotline number for folks who would be interested in providing shelter for some of these folks. I'm told that he result was that all of those needing shelter that night got it.
I was also told last night that Leo Gerard, the head of the Steelworkers announced that he was calling on all union members to share their hotel rooms with some of the protesters in a sign of brotherhood.
Another thing that's going on quietly is that people all over Miami are opening their homes, and their backyards to let folk' camp out. I know of one couple who has almost 50 young people in their back yard, and I'm sure that a number of churches in this community have prevailed on their members to open their homes and their backyards to these young people.
So, not everyone has lost their good sense, or their civil manners in this town.
THURSDAY MORNING: GOOD MORNING MIAMI - LOOK WHOSE ON OUR STREETS
It was a far smaller crowd than I think anyone expected - including me who has been saying for weeks that there was not going to be anywhere near the numbers that the police and others had been claiming would be taking part in these protests - that gathered in the plaza of the County Commission chambers on Thursday morning.
The crowd was somewhere in the 400 range, largely young people, some with signs, a couple with banners. Since this was going to be a parade of sorts, everyone was waiting for the puppets to arrive, and for whatever reasons - police harassment tactics being the reason widely circulated - it took a while for them to arrive and everyone to form up for the march to the fences on the boulevard and Flagler Street.
The signs that this was going to be a difficult, and possibly dangerous day had already become evident on Tuesday afternoon when well over 500 heavily armored and armed Metro-Dade police had come out into the streets supposedly, as I was told on Wednesday, as a result of a threat or rumor that the Black Bloc was going to join up with the Root Cause and the Immokalee Farm Workers as they came into the city at the conclusion of their 3 day march. They didn't, but I suspect that like many other things that occurred this week, the threat of anarchists showing up was merely a pretext in order to provide an excuse to set a tone for the upcoming events.
The march started sometime close to 8 AM, and had only gone about 3 blocks when I realized that the Miami Police Department and Chief Timoney, had decided to use a version of the Los Angeles model, rather than a modified version of the tactics that he had used in Philadelphia during the 2000 Republican National Convention.
The Los Angeles model (and this is my own identifying title, although I would believe that all of the strategies and tactics are exhaustively detailed in police manuals, and probably identified in much the same way), used by the LA police during the 2000 Democratic Convention is to convert your police force into a heavily armored and armed, military-style force that moves around in squad formations of 50-100 man units, constantly flanking and encircling the protesters, and as a consequence of this military preparation and mindset, far more ready to use force, and possibly excessive force including shooting and physically attacking protesters and bystanders at the first provocation.. The LA model turns the police into soldiers, and their primary goal is not so much crowd control, as it is to dominate and pacify the streets and everyone on them.
In Philadelphia, Chief Timoney had had some heavily armored and armed squads, but he had relied far more on having a large part of his force - in 50-100 man units - being dressed in light blue shirts, and blue shorts, and on them being on bicycles. The bicycles were used as barricades to block off and control protesters. He also used horses and motorcycle police - not on big Harley's, but on smaller motorcycles - to charge into a crowd to break things up.
The difference between these two models is evident. And the outcomes are also evident. The LA model is far more intimidating. You've all seen the photographs or video on TV of what happened this week. This wasn't a police force on Miami's streets; it was a modified army.
The mindset of an army is to engage the "enemy." There has now been ample evidence in the Miami Herald, the Sun Sentinel, the indymedia website, and all of the local TV stations that in instance after instance the police treated normal citizens and law abiding protesters in this city like the US Army has been treating people in Afghanistan and Iraq. Later on I will write about a family forced to the ground outside the Sylvester Cancer Center on Friday, and will probably post the photographs as well so that you can see what happens to people when police consider everyone a possible enemy.
This kind of behavior almost guarantees that by the end of the day -if you have confrontations, and that's almost a given, especially if, like Chief Timoney, who was characterized in Sunday's Miami Herald as being like "a war general" has openly taunted and egged on protesters for weeks.
But I digress, let us get back to the march.
The marchers set off east on NE 1st Street. At NE 2nd Avenue, they took a right. On Flagler Street, they took a left. One block further east, at NE 3rd Avenue, and a short block from Biscayne Boulevard, they were met by a double row of Miami Police in riot gear blocking the street. It was by then somewhere around 8 A.M.. At first, many of the marchers milled around in a pretty tight knot. Some had ventured north on 3rd Avenue, but were blocked from going past NW 1st Street by Miami Police who had blocked that intersection. Others, wandered down 3rd Avenue to SE 1st Street where the east and south streets were blocked by Miami police/
This was the aerial view that many Miamians saw from the news helicopters. On the ground the usual kinds of things were happening. Photographers were taking pictures of people in the crowd, and especially those who for whatever reason felt the need to go up and either lecture, scold, try to convert, or just scream at the police. On the north side of 3rd Avenue a couple anarchists had spray painted their tag - a circle with a capital A - on the roll down shutters of some the closed shops, only to be called on it by other protesters who were challenging them to quit doing that because it was both stupid, and reflected on all of them.
On the south side of 3rd Avenue at SE 1st Street, which had largely been empty, a handful of protesters started dancing in the middle of the intersection, which attracted others, including some of the larger puppeteers and a group of drummers.
It was a little tense, but peaceful. I wondered whether it was all going to end here with the police rolling up with buses and arresting everyone. That was the only reason I could think of for stopping the march less than a block from the boulevard.
After about 45 minutes of milling around, my suspicions that arrest was eminent were increased when the police on the south side of SE 3rd Avenue crossed over and started trying to push the protesters back toward Flagler Street.
These kinds of actions by the police are always confrontational. No one likes to be physically pushed around, no matter what the situation is. In a protest situation, when police in riot gear are pushing you around, it can get especially hairy. The adrenaline starts flowing, the fear factor of physical injury kicks in, and for photographers and TV guys trying to take photographs, you find yourselves sometimes between the police and the protesters, and both of them are using you as a battering ram against the other.
It took about 15-20 minutes to push everyone off of 3rd Avenue and onto Flagler Street. At that point I was pretty much convinced that the jig was up and the buses were lining up to come in and haul everyone away.
Then, the police that had been on Flagler Street, west of 3rd Avenue started pushing everyone east. It was somewhere in this struggle that someone tossed what I guess were balloons filled with white paint at the front row of the cops and several had their helmets and chest plates covered with the paint.
It was here were things got more confrontational. Police were using their batons not only sideways to push people, but some started using them as clubs. I was told that one specific policeman lost it and punched a protester in the mouth before one of his Commanders grabbed him and pulled him back. Protesters were trying to form lines as a way to push the cops back. because they believed they were being forced into each other in a smaller and smaller space, and that in and of itself is frightening.. And then, all of a sudden, the police, who had been behind us, blocking our access to the boulevard were gone.
I think it's reasonable to ask at this point, why?
Why did the police stop the marchers from continuing east on Flagler and out onto the boulevard when the marchers first reached the intersection of Flagler and Third Avenue?
After the street was blocked, when they finally decided to let people into the boulevard, why didn't they remove the police blocking access to the boulevard first, and then announce to everyone that the boulevard was now accessible, instead of going through the shoving and pushing match that was widely broadcast on television, and which I am told by people who watched it, provided visuals of these shoving matches which local newscasters used to bad mouth the protesters and portray them as violent.
In short, was the stoppage of the protesters before they could reach the boulevard a staged event for the morning newscasts in the hopes that things might actually have gotten out of hand?
Another problem, and one that the police cannot claim they were ignorant of, or incapable of solving, is the problem of communication during this kind of situation.
It is impossible at one of these protests, especially in a situation like what happened on Flagler Street to hear anything that anyone says who is further away that 2 feet from you. The noise at these events is all encompassing, and it's one of the primary things that contributes to the high levels of stress that affects everyone, protesters and police alike. You've got 3,4,5 or more helicopters above you, you're in small narrow streets with buildings with sharp hard surfaces that bounce back the sound, and the noise at street level from the marchers and the police makes it almost impossible to hear anything.
If there were any commands or instructions issued by the police, no one heard them. Yet, had the police had any sort of portable sound system, they could have announced something like this, "Attention everyone. We are not going to arrest you. We are not going to pen you up in the street. If you will turn around and look, you will see that the access to Biscayne Boulevard has been cleared. You can now go out to the boulevard." And when I say turn around and look, it's because everyone becomes so focused on paying attention to what's happening in front of you, that very few people have the presence of mind to turn around. Also, in a crunch, even when you do look back, all you can see are the people looking at you.
I'd thought about all of this from prior protests, and made the suggestion at a meeting held at City Hall between city officials, police, the community relations board and a number of protest group leaders that the single thing that I thought was important for everyone so that there wouldn't be the kind of confusion that occurred in Los Angeles when the police declared an unlawful assembly on a bull horn which no one heard, and then they went out and shot everyone they could, was for the police to secure a better sound system to try and avoid this problem. Even a portable playback system used by film crews all over the world when they shoot music videos on the streets would have made communication better. Everyone thanked me for my suggestion, and then promptly ignored it.
Had police done that then I don't think there would have been the problems that occurred. In fact, I'd go further and say that if cities were to wire the protest areas like stadiums wire for rock concerts before a protest, it might prove to be an effective way to try and minimize some of the confusion that occurs at the events.
But then again, what appeared on morning television provided the kind of visuals that look far more menacing on television than they actually were, and one has to wonder whether it was done for that purpose.
Once out on the boulevard, things kind of mellowed out. They always do. Many protests have periods of short, intense clashes or confrontations between police and protesters followed by long lulls. In my book, I described what happens at these protests in a caption under photographs of a protester and a cop juxtaposed to look toward each other by writing, "Waiting for the other side to do something is often the primary strategy between protesters and police."
Hours can go by between confrontations. In the interim, people will sit down on the sidewalks or the street, they'll mill around, they'll visit and talk with each other, some, because they're young and full of energy will play games or joke around, and of course everyone at some time has to go find a bathroom.
That's what basically went on after everyone got out on the boulevard. At the same time, you had many of the same people who had earlier felt the need to go up and either lecture, scold, try to convert, or just scream at the police do it all over again, and this provided the still photographers and TV camera crews something to photograph, and the reporters someone to interview.
Some time around 10 AM, one of the PIO's for the Miami Police Department came out and started walking in front of the line of police announcing that "This has been declared an unlawful assembly. You are being ordered to disperse."
Of course, this begs several questions. First, why, since everyone was more or less mellowed out and scattered across the width of the boulevard from Flagler to between NE 1st and 2nd Street, what prompted this order to disperse?
Secondly, disperse where? This was the designated protest area.
The police, who had also been trying to mellow out and had taken off their tear gas masks, got back in phalanx position, and started pushing the protesters back. And they had a lot to push back, because the cry had gone out that this was going on, and many had jumped up to man the barricades you might say.
Any time police attempt to move protesters, it becomes a very tense situation. It is these situations which often provide the best photographs but also where you'll sometimes see real acts of courage as civilian protest monitors try to head off potential struggles but putting themselves in the middle of it all to separate police and protesters, and also as protesters try to help and support each other from being crushed, and also on this morning there occurred a pretty despicable act of bullying which could have put 2 young women in harms way.
One act of courage came from the head of the Miami Community Relations Board who repeatedly attempted to put herself between the police and the protesters in an effort to try and reason with the protesters to move back peacefully. It's often thankless, sometimes unsuccessful, and most of all dangerous. I give her great credit and only wonder why others in this community - or on that board for that matter - didn't join her, or another female member who I've been told was trying to do the same thing further down.
On the despicable side, some guy in his mid-forties, bald, wearing a blue shirt and light tan pants with a tie, was observed by my friend and fellow photographer Betsy, haranguing a couple teenage girls when all this started, screaming at them that they should get up front because, "They won't hit girls!"
For a middle-aged man to be trying to instigate and put in harms way two young, and clearly scared and impressionable teenage girls, the son-of-a-bitch deserves as ass whipping. Not only would the cops hit girls, they'll club them, kick them, and shoot them if it comes to that. The choice as to where you want to be in these situations should always be yours. No one should try and do what this guy did. It's just unconscionable behavior, and it's the only such incident in all my years of covering protests that I've ever heard of someone doing something this scummy.
In the end, and without things getting completely out of hand, the police pushed everyone north of NE 1st Street, and that's where things settled down for about 15-20 minutes, until the PIO went through the drill again, announcing that it was an unlawful assembly, and that people had to disperse again.
Once again, the police firmed up, and pushed everyone back to NE 2nd Street.
In the interim between the push from 1st to 2nd street is when the incident occurred where the undercover cops grabbed some guy, and as they dragged/carried him out, a couple of them pulled out Tazer guns and shot a couple people - or at least shot at them - with the Tazers.
IT'S NOT OUR FAULT - THE PROTESTERS WERE BLOCKING THE ENTRANCE
The ultimate outcome of the police pushing the protesters north from Flagler to 2nd Street is that most of them ended up congregating in front of the entrance to the ATT Amphitheater. The time was now around 10:30-11:00 AM, and the various unions groups were beginning to unload from buses and make their way to the Amphitheater where they had scheduled a large rally before their march began at 2:00 P.M..
Everyone was now packed in between NE 2nd Street and NE 3rd Street. Police in riot gear blocked off all access either north of 3rd, or south of 2nd, and they also blocked access west on 2nd Street. The only way that people could come in or out was on 3rd street, west to NE 2nd Avenue. 2nd Avenue, coming south from 5th Street was blocked to vehicles, but the various sandwich shops along 2nd Avenue that cater to the community college were open, and many took a break to get some lunch.
During this time it was reported afterwards, that thousands of union members on buses waiting to get to the rally were turned back because supposedly the "protesters" were blocking the entrance to the ATT Amphitheater, and no one could get in.
I don't know the real numbers, but clearly there were busloads of union members that were denied the opportunity to attend the rally of the march. This is how the Miami Herald reported on it Saturday:
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.''
I would think it reasonable to conclude that the police moved the protesters purposely as a way to create congestion, and then used the congestion to justify turning away the buses of union members.
And why not? The AF of L might huff and puff, but, it's clear that their fellow union members in all of the various police forces in Miami gave lip service at best to the notion of union solidarity and brotherhood. One needs only to read the reports in the newspapers of middle-aged, and older union members being beaten, shot, and arrested around the Amphitheater and in other parts of the city to realize that as an old tourist slogan used to brag, the rules are different here. In Miami, union members don't hug you and give you a handshake to show their brotherhood, they shoot you and beat you.
The big question is what will the unions do, besides bitch? Would the AF of L call for a boycott of Miami and Miami Beach tourism as a way to demand accountability for what happened? Next year is an election year. A boycott and an increased union presence in Florida could have interesting, if uncertain consequences in the 2004 Presidential Election.
The law of unintended consequences is often a byproduct of calamitous events.
END OF PART I -
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