FTAA Journal: Day Three

People were still in shock from the events that had taken place the day before. The violent repression felt from the police translated into an overwhelming fear and paranoia after the street actions were over. I was still tired from evacuating the Independent Media Center (IMC) from the convergence space, because we had been expecting a raid. We had evacuated in panic, but after an hour we had a chance to calm down and realize that we were in no immediate danger.

Slowly people poured back into the convergence center, the IMC was set up again and the work was continued. There were many people in jail and they had to come out as soon as possible. Police Chief Timoney is well know for his brutal repression of dissenters and the experiences of people who were arrested during the protests against the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philladelphia, where Timoney was commissioner, were still fresh in people's minds.

I arrived late at the convergence center. Thursday's events had tired me out immensely and I opted for a few more hours of sleep. The spokescouncil meeting had already happened at 10 AM and the decision was made to have a press conference and jail solidarity demonstration outside one of the facilities where over 200 political prisoners were being held.

The mood was festive, yet incredibly condemning of the tactics that the police had used during Thursday's demonstrations. Many representatives of groups such as Jobs for Justice and Global Exchange spoke of the police riot that had taken place and pointed out the obvious fact that the police state in Miami represented the repression of the current administration against dissent. After this brief press conference, one of the organizers announced that they had negotiated with the police and we would be allowed to show our solidarity with those inside the prison system.

The crowd marched from the press conference to across the jail and started chanting, "Let them go! Let them go!" Although there was absolutely no reason for it, the Miami police was provoked once again and massed hundreds of riot police in front of the jail and along both sides of the parking lot. The crowd replied in unison, "There ain't no riot here, take off your stupid gear."

On top of a nearby parking lot we could see the same undercover cops that had been snatching people the day before, spying into the crowd with binoculars and taking photographs using telephoto lenses. A meeting was called to decide what the best way to end the demonstration would be, but before any decision was made the police made the announcement that they had received information that people had been collecting rocks and that the demonstration was now an unlawful assembly.

The claim was preposterous, as I was among the few hundred people who were completely peaceful, and nobody was collecting anything. But the general feeling was that it was not worth resisting the bogus claims of police with the little numbers that were there. About seven people in a symbolic act voluntarily got arrested, but the majority of the people did not think it was worth it and started to leave the area.

Obviously there was another plan in effect because one line of about 30 riot police followed the crowd that was not only dispersing but also chanting, "We are dispersing! We are dispersing!" They didn't seem to get it and another line of riot cops surrounded the approximately 25 protestors, numerous journalists, legal observers, and even the women who had been in constant communication with them and had made the announcement about the end of the demonstration in the first place. At this point the brutality began again as the police shot pepper spray filled pellets at demonstrators at close range, threw them to the ground by pulling on their hair, and started to arrest everybody that was caught up in it and trying to leave.

It was probably the most shocking overreaction I've seen to a completely non-violent protest and definitely set a new low for the so-called democracy in the United States. Chief Timoney demonstrated how a government can use force to protect the interests of the elite the day before, and today he exemplified his complete lack of respect for freedom of speech and human dignity.

Read more: Why are people protesting the FTAA? | Day One | Day Two | Day Three

Ali Tonak graduated from Bard College after studying molecular biology. He is currently employed as a construction worker.


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