What’s Going on around the FTAA in Miami — You Won’t Find Much in the Mainstream Press

Yesterday I spent some time at the U-C IMC helping to do phone interviews with our reporters on the streets in Miami, and then posting updates to the U-C IMC website. I arrived at the IMC just before the police made a major and violent offensive against peaceful protestors gathered a few blocks away from the fenced off FTAA Summit area. Four of our protestors were caught in the push and forced nearly 18 blocks away from downtown.

Last night one of our reporters gave a really good summary of the police offensive, reporting that the cops repeated over a bullhorn that there would be problems if there was no violence, but then started pushing and using gas and projectiles against protestors, apparently unprovoked. It’s worthwile to give that summary a listen.

This morning there are no major protest actions planned in Miami because the FTAA talks ended early with a watered down bare-bones agreement that will need much more negotiation. Zach, one of the U-C IMC reporters in Miami, told us this morning that initially many activists were disappointed to hear the talks ended with an agreement of some sort. But their mood changed when they realized that the agreement was not particularly detailed or cohesive — apparently Canada, in particular, was pushing to have much more specific agreement, but relented.

It’s widely believed that the protests had the effect of making the trade ministers wrap up the FTAA talks as quickly as possible, thereby delaying agreements on details and possibly delaying any real implementation of the agreement. Because so much is left to be worked out, there is still a high potential for any agreement to break down.

In terms of the mainstream media, Zach said only TV camerapeople were really present on the street with the protestors — no on-camera reporters, except for some of the Miami local Spanish-language channels. He said that the camerapeople seemed supportive of the protestors, and were themselves often attacked by police projectiles and gas. FTAA IMC has some pictures of these guys all geared up to face police assaults.

This morning at least 50 activists gathered in front of the Miami Herald to demonstrate against the paper embedding some journalists with the Miami police guarding the FTAA Summit zone.

Probably the most disturbing thing is how little coverage the mainstream press has given to the Summit and protests. One might think that having downtown Miami effectively shut down and turned into a police state, while thousands of peaceful protestors are gassed and beaten might be pretty important news. But instead, it seems as though the mainstream press — from the New York Times to CNN and FOX — knows who’s buttering their bread, and do not see it in their best interest to privilege the protests as news.

The surprise factor that made the Battle of Seattle big news in 1999 is no longer there, even if the suprise is that protestors didn’t wreak the kind of mass havoc and destruction the Miami authorities had warned would happen. Now the mainstream media have plenty of time to decide exactly how much and what kind of coverage they want to give, and as long as nobody breaks ranks with real reportage, then it’s not big news.

Local Miami media covered the protests, but the tone and quality of coverage varied. U-C IMC reporters watching local TV yesterday afternoon said much of the video was coming from helicopters overhead, making it into spectacle, kind of like the high-speed police car chases that get televised in Los Angeles.

The Miami Herald this morning published a four-photo spread of yesterday’s police offensive. Three pictures showed cops shooting or injuring protestors, one picture showed a protestor throwing back a gas canister police had launched at him. The only caption was for the photo of the protestor throwing the canister, which also said that protestors provoked the police violence.

Today one of our reporters who was at the very front line of the protestors, right in front of the police, yesterday afternoon told me that this is patently false — she saw no protestors do anything violent before the police advanced. However, she says she saw many protestors who she believed were actually cops, and has heard from many people who saw cops dressed as protestors walk right up to the fence and be let in to join the uniformed cops.

3 Responses to What’s Going on around the FTAA in Miami — You Won’t Find Much in the Mainstream Press

  1. michelle November 23, 2003 at 3:44 pm #

    It was quite obvious to everyone that the police squads that were in full mock gear wanted to hurt people. I was among the peaceful protestors The Green Party. I stopped at a hotel to use the rest room, bumped into a police in his full mock gear, he was fixing his suit and pads were falling off. He looked rediculous of course but I asked him casually if there had been any arrests so far. He gave me a really dirty look and turned his head away then a moment later he kinda mumbled with irritation an “I don’t know” but looked at me with a look I can’t quite put words to, like as if to say, I want to kill you. It was very eary. I am a regular college student and I look a little artsy but I am a well dressed and attractive woman. I thought his behavior was more in the realm of a Gastapo. If he was there to protect the innocent then why didn’t he offer any protective advice. Instead he looked more like he wanted to taste my blood. It was a strange day. Not to mention that there was no negotiations about the parameter of the march. We were told take it or leave it. We were kept from view from the public and the media did a fine job of scaring everyone and telling them to stay away from downtown. The amount of police and tanks and machine guns and bombs and tear gas was overkill. It looked like when we went to fight Iraq. There were more than 40 different agencies of police there. This is very unamerican. All the news footage on all stations are using the same pictures of a few kids throwing rocks. These are kids under 18 and just totally unaware. But a lot of innocent people were dragged by the hair and hit with butons in the head. The Media is so obviously controlled, with titles like “Miami under Seige. C’mon….I heard that our constututional rights were suspended that day and that the police were at zero tollerance. Ever since our wonderful government signed the patriot act now everything and anything can be seen as terrorist activity even protesting. Not so in the years before WAKE UP AMERICA. You have lost your liberties.

  2. Trevor November 25, 2003 at 2:39 pm #

    Uhmm….. YEAH. The police in Miami were way out of line. The media was right there with them, and we got slaughtered. I have no idea what happened to civil liberties, or even democracy, for that matter. Thursday morning began as a peaceful protest. We were all standing around and all of a sudden violence erupted. Take it from me. I was on the ‘front lines’. The police totally instigated everything. At one point we began to chant “this was a peaceful protest…”. I can’t describe what happened to us. I was horrible. Think about where people were getting shot with “less” lethal weapons. Usually they start below the waist and move up. I seen headwounds first thing Thursday morning. As far as police protesters go, yeah. A bunch of us seen “Anarchists” behind police lines, allowed into the streets.

  3. Todd Erickson December 5, 2003 at 9:47 am #

    FTAA PROTEST IN MIAMI Nov 19-21, 2003

    I traveled with 300 other Minnesotans to Miami to oppose the corporate-led Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). About 20,000 union members, environmentalists and religious and human rights activists/leaders from North, Central and South America marched through the streets of Miami November 20 to call for living wage jobs and to stop the FTAA.

    Our Minnesota delegation witnessed plenty of outright police aggression and hostility directed at peaceful protesters. Miami looked and behaved like a city under martial law. They even had a helicopter flying above us the whole time at our peaceful musical/fun event on Wednesday night, November 19. Shortly after the Thursday, November 20, March, riot-clad police armed with pepper spray, rubber bullets and batons descended on hundreds of the marchers, including many senior citizens who had peacefully gathered. Several marchers were hit by rubber bullets and sprayed with pepper gas. Buses carrying thousands of retirees and union members to the Protest March on Thursday were blocked from entering the city of Miami, effectively taking away their First Amendment rights.

    The Steelworkers, which had 2,000 members in attendance, called for Congressional Investigation into Police-State Assaults in Miami that saw their members subjected to unnecessary police violence and harassment. USWA President Leo W. Gerard called it Homeland Repression. http://www.uswa.org/uswa/program/content/737.php

    The city unnecessarily shut down most of downtown Miami (about 20 blocks) and the police made it difficult to get from point A to B with roadblocks and the ever-changing rules of what public sidewalks and roads we could use. For weeks prior to the March, the media sold the public on the idea that the protesters were coming in to riot, which wasn’t true for 99%+ of the activists/leaders who attended the protest. The mainstream mass media focus was on the potential violence of the protesters versus the economic justice aspects of the FTAA for the Working Class of Miami. Miami is the poorest large urban center in the USA and will be hit especially hard by corporate-led trade strategies that compete on the basis of low wages and lax environmental standards.

    Like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that took effect in 1994, the FTAA would empower multinational corporations to win suits against a national government merely because a labor or environmental protection is negatively affecting profits. According to documents leaked last year, FTAA negotiators are following the path of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund with plans to force nations to privatize all types of government services.

    The goal for corporations appears to be about controlling everything from education to transportation, from health care to electricity, from mail delivery to tap water. I don’t know about you but with my experiences with corporate greed and misconduct at Qwest and U S WEST the past 5 years, along with watching all forms of corporate criminal activities of WorldCom/MCI, Enron, etc… the last thing I want to see is large corporations gaining more power over governments and working families.

    Corporate-led trade agreements are a race to the bottom in which large businesses seek out countries that pay the lowest wages and have the worst working conditions. The Economic Policy Institute reports that NAFTA has cost almost 900,000 U.S. jobs and driven down real wages in Mexico. (http://www.epinet.org/content.cfm/briefingpapers_bp147)

    The good news is that FTAA such a bad deal for developing countries that the best world leaders could agree on is how to proceed forward at their next FTAA negotiations. The public is becoming more aware of job loss and wage repression that comes with trade agreements that have no enforceable labor standards for workers and how multinational corporations are continuing to demand more control over governments. We need to continue to press for an alternative vision of global trade agreements that protects working families. (http://www.art-us.org)

    ACTION NEEDED: Make sure your legislators get a call from you opposing FTAA. It’s important to know that a small number of phone calls from concerned citizens can catch the attention of our elected officials, especially calls from voting constituents. Make sure state and local elected officials of both parties realize that the rules in these free trade deals limit their ability to govern in the public interest. Anyone campaigning for state office in 2004 should be questioned on the matter.
    (http://www.americas.org/News/Features/20031125_MiamiFTAA/Organizing_Weiss.htm)
    http://www.americas.org/News/Features/20031125_MiamiFTAA/Overview_Baynton.htm

    To contact your senators – http://www.senate.gov/contacting/index.cfm
    To contact your representative – http://www.house.gov/writerep

    LINKS TO FTAA WEB SITES (http://www.WorkdayMinnesota.org)
    Alliance for Responsible Trade (ART) http://www.art-us.org
    Citizens Trade Campaign: http://www.citizenstrade.org
    CWA http://www.cwa-union.org/international/ftaa/fact_sheet.asp
    Florida Fair Trade Coalition: http://www.flfairtrade.org
    Global Exchange: http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/ftaa/topten.html
    American Friends Service Committee: http://www.afsc.org
    Public Citizen: http://www.citizen.org
    Jobs With Justice: http://www.jwj.org
    People’s Consultation on the FTAA: http://www.peoplesconsultation.org
    Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Economy: http://www.asje.org
    Stop the FTAA: http://www.stopftaa.org
    FTAA Resistance: http://www.ftaaresistance.org
    Resource Center of the Americas: http://www.americas.org
    Alliance for Responsible Trade (ART) http://www.art-us.org

    Todd Erickson
    CWA Local 7200 AVP
    Minneapolis, MN
    612-794-7264,(Union VM)
    tod@mtn.org, (e-mail)
    612-789-0739, (home)
    http://www.cwa7200.org

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