Let's get rid of the first amendment

Discussion in 'Freedom and Liberty' started by Seacowboys, Jun 18, 2006.

  1. Seacowboys

    Seacowboys Senior Member Founding Member

    Militarization in Miami
    Threatening the Right to Protest

    There was a real threat to the social order on the streets of Miami last week, during the Ministerial Meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

    It wasn't protesters, not even those calling themselves anarchists or even those dressed in black.

    No, the threat came from the Miami police, Florida state troopers and the other police and military forces patrolling the city.

    With more than $10 million in special funding (including an $8.5 million allocation in the federal government's Iraq appropriations bill), 2,500 or so officers -- many clad in full body armor and backed up by armored vehicles -- turned Miami into a veritable police state.

    As was almost inevitable, the police used wildly excessive force to deal with protesters. They launched unprovoked attacks against people who were doing nothing illegal. They sprayed tear gas and pepper spray at protesters -- including retirees -- and shot many with rubber bullets. They used taser guns. They knocked down peaceful protesters and held guns to their heads. They blocked thousands of retirees and union members on buses from joining a rally and march for which all required permits had been obtained. They attacked journalists viewed as hostile. They arrested approximately 250 persons, according to the best estimates, with little or no rationale. Credible reports have emerged of brutality and sexual harassment against several of those jailed.

    At least as serious, the police deterred thousands from even considering joining the FTAA protests -- and protests into the future.

    In sunny Miami, it was a dark week for the First Amendment, for civil liberties and for the right to dissent.

    A South African activist told us how deeply frightened she was walking down the streets of Miami. Even before the police violence erupted, marching in the streets amidst thousands of armored police sent chills down her spine, she said.

    Last week's outrages had their roots in months of planning led by Miami Police Chief John Timoney. He whipped the city and the police force into a frenzy. The absurdist invocation of an anarchist threat convinced the local media (especially television reporters) and much of the local population that downtown would be a riot zone. That was enough to empty the downtown, and scare many local Miamians from joining any of the protests, no matter how tame.

    We had first-hand experience with this problem. We had been involved in a planning a small demonstration on Tuesday -- two days before the main protests. We had obtained all requisite permits from the police. With agreement from their teachers, hundreds of high school students were ready to join our small action highlighting how the FTAA and trade agreements interfere with anti-smoking and other public health measures. But no teacher could feel comfortable sending students to a militarized downtown, and so the students were not able to demonstrate. We turned our rally into a news conference.

    This was a small incident. Our demonstration wasn't going to change the world. (We do, however, intend to win on our demand to exclude tobacco products from all trade agreements.) But as an illustrative example, it is incredibly important, for it shows how police overdeployment, scare tactics and militarization intimidates people from marching in the streets and opposing corporate- and state-approved policy.

    It wasn't just the public and media that Timoney managed to frighten. There's little doubt that the police themselves buy the propaganda. After months of excessive training and hearing about the dangers posed by protesters, and empowered by new body armor, shields, batons and other equipment, the police were, to say the least, overeager to lunge at protesters. (Said one of a group of 10 cops on bikes as they crossed the street to assess the scene at our news conference, and with one of us standing right next to them, "Let's go fuck 'em up.")

    By the time of the main demonstrations on Thursday, the police couldn't hold themselves back.

    In different circumstances, it would have been funny to see the police outnumbering the direct action protesters, or the comically attired "undercover" agents who were a bit too well built to credibly seem part of the ranks of the slight direct action protesters -- many of whom are vegans.

    But it wasn't funny.

    Not when the police -- responding to the smallest provocations, such as a couple small fires lit in trashcans -- went berserk and attacked large crowds of protesters. Not when credible reports say some of those undercover agents may have been provocateurs, and when several of them emerged as some of the most brutal in attacking protesters.

    There is immediate need now to support those who were jailed and mistreated, and force the city to drop trumped up charges against protesters.

    You can help by sending a fax to Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz protesting the violation of constitutional rights. Public Citizen has established a free fax site at:

  2. ColtCarbine

    ColtCarbine Monkey+++ Founding Member

    Might as well get rid of the 1st Amendment, the rest don't mean squat anymore. I'm waiting for the new set of rules to live by.
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