[Corporations] The Massacre in Miami
manski at greens.org
Thu Nov 27 15:55:41 CST 2003
note: a version of this article appeared in today's The Capital Times at
The Massacre in Miami
Miami is not Seattle. Both cities are beacons of the future, yet they light
the way on different economic paths. Seattle, the Emerald City, the city of
the new economy, high expectations, high technology and "high-road"
capitalism. Miami, the Gateway to the Americas, a labor camp teeming with
the refugees of imperialism, the poorest city in America. It's fitting that
trade summits in each city should produce such different results.
In November 1999 the World Trade Organization met in Seattle. Last week,
the ministers of the Free Trade Area of the Americas met in Miami. Several
hundred Wisconsinites traveled to both ministerial meetings in protest. We
went to speak for our own interests as farmers, workers, students, business
owners and citizens, united in our conviction that corporations must not be
handed the reins to the global economy.
Our experiences in each city were poles apart. Had we gone to Miami
prepared to win, ready to derail the FTAA negotiations, as we had done with
the WTO in 1999, the story you are about to read likely would have unfolded
differently. As it is, the Miami story is one of defeat. The media dubbed
Seattle a "battle," which the WTO opponents won. But Miami could best be
called a "massacre," in which an overwhelming and disciplined police force
wiped the streets of disorganized demonstrators.
Last Thursday over 22,000 people marched in Miami's streets against the
FTAA. The message of the demonstration was clear: No to closed-door
trade meetings. No to corporation-made law. No to the race to the bottom.
In sum: No to the FTAA.
For a little over two hours, contingents of unionists, civil rights groups,
community organizations, farmers, students, Mexicans, Manitobans and
Miamians, and countless others passed parade-like on a roundabout route
beginning and ending at Bayfront Park.
As the clock neared 4, the tail of the march reached the corner of Biscayne
and 3rd, near the park. Some stood and faced the police lines. Others
attended a free concert in the park itself. Still others began to leave for
home. The police bullhorn broadcast to the thousands still on hand that,
"So long as the demonstration remains peaceful, it will continue. If it is
not peaceful, it will not continue." One person shouted in reply, "Does
that include police violence?"
Within minutes, they had their answer. Without any apparent provocation,
the police attacked. First, with batons and tear gas. Then with rubber
bullets, pepper spray and concussion grenades. Marchers began to run, and
then, keeping our senses, to quickly walk, away from the police and toward
safety. Those attending the concert in the park were trapped behind police
lines, and gassed.
They chased us through Miami. This was not a police free for all as was the
case with Seattle. This was military precision. Forty police forces -
federal, state, local and military - were under a central command. Over
three hours they forced us back, block after block, with little resistance,
miles from Bayfront Park. They divided us from each other at each
intersection, splitting us, and splitting us again, into small groups, each
a fraction of the size of the one before it. They had clearly made a
decision to suppress the protest, and this they did with the violence
necessary to do the job.
Medics working with the protest reported more than 125 civilians suffered
serious injuries. The Miami Activist Defense estimated that over 250 people
were arrested for protesting the FTAA, including seven Wisconsinites.
If there is a lesson from Miami, it is this: Retreat usually leads to defeat.
In Seattle, the police ran amok. They lost the battle for legitimacy to the
moral force of non-violence, and they lost control of the streets to the
effective use of civil disobedience tactics.
In Miami, the police ran the protests out of town. They not only controlled
the streets, but also often the media. Police commanders appeared on local
television channels as "on-site commentators," in many cases displacing the
channels' own journalists as reporters of the news.
In Seattle, the movement for global justice was new, creative and hungry
for a major reversal of the consolidation of corporate power. The chief
proponent of global corporatization was President Clinton, and it was
Clinton who called up the National Guard in a futile attempt to insulate
the WTO ministerial from criticism. We had no illusions, no saviors; our
faith was in democracy, and movements from the streets.
In Miami, the movement was obviously in retreat. In some respects, the
events in Miami represent the relative weakness of progressive politics in
the post Sept. 11 era. Our actions were motivated by fears of the immediate
by an immediate threat, in one case the police, in the other, the Bush
administration, rather than guided
by an organized strategy for winning the day.
After congressional authorization of the occupations of Afghanistan and
Iraq, and passage of the PATRIOT Act, we should have had no illusions that
leadership remains within the political establishment to stop the FTAA. Yet
our actions in Miami indicated that we were still operating under exactly
those kinds of illusions. We looked for leaders to emerge who we could
follow, rather than taking leadership ourselves.
However, not all is lost. Because of the leadership of the people of
Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, and other nations, the ministerial meeting
produced no real movement toward the enactment of the FTAA. We have a
reprieve, and it is up to the people of the United States to use it.
Attending the protests of the FTAA ministerial meeting was Delegate
Leonardo Alvarez, a Green member of the Mexican Congress. As we said
goodbye on Friday, Leonardo took hold of my arm, and did not let go. He
told me, "We are counting on you. You must be aggressive. You are leaders.
You will succeed, I know you will."
After Miami, we had better.
Ben Manski is a lifelong Madisonian, law student and a co-chair of
the Green Party of the United States. www.GP.org
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