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(en) The Commoner N.9 - Spring/Summer 2004 - Free trade in the Americas: the very best in extrajudicial operations

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 5 Jul 2004 09:01:19 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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In November 2004, US unions and activists planned a large presence at the
FTAA/ALCA/ZLEA negotiations in Miami, Florida. The city of Miami bragged
that the law enforcement for the events would be a "model" for
Homeland Security -- the draconian post-911 federal legislation
which created a new agency for anti-terrorism and justified
broadbased violation of rights during investigation and prosecution.
Activists of all stripes bravely prepared educational events,
marches, political art, and direct action to disrupt the legalization
and codification of hemispheric corporate plunder. No less than
40 law enforcement agencies, 7 of which were federal, violated
protesters' rights. Even elders and those attending educational
events were targeted. The police plan was to "limit" protest in
order to "prevent violence". In practice, unidentified agents did
not only "prevent, limit, and disrupt" constitutionally protected
speech and assembly, but also created a "deliberate and pervasive
pattern of intimidation" including hunting activists violently and
indiscriminately for over 30 blocks from the actual meeting site.
This police operation seemed intended to terrorize citizens (both
participants and observers) from future acts of dissent.

"Hunted in Miami"
doc - http://www.commoner.org.uk/09starr1.doc
html - http://www.commoner.org.uk/09starr1.htm - appended

is my report on the week. "Killmon vs. City of Miami" (.pdf
is the broadest of the lawsuits filed against the agencies.

hunted in miami, "the model for homeland defense" - 29 November, 2003 by amory starr

"…a sweep", came the call, but i didn’t know what it really
meant. it was just another cop word whispered by another
paranoid activist. there were three landlines and twelve cell
phones ringing and our internal nextels were beeping and
buzzing. i was supposed to "coordinate incoming information" for
Miami Activist Defense, the legal collective set up to provide
support activists protesting the ftaa meetings.* over the next
hours i learned that a sweep means a fifteen-block-wide wall of
vaderesque police shoulder-to-shoulder moving north, doing
violence to every person in their path. the callers were all
breathing hard. i realized that most of my closest friends were
being hunted through the streets of miami.

the MAD phones had already been ringing fairly constantly for
days with reports of detentions, illegal searches, bizarre arrests of
medics and legal observers, persistent and intrusive surveillance
and invasion of activist spaces, including media and medical
spaces. in a chilling echo of the iraq war (for which part of the
budget was routed to miami), the media invited to "embed" with
the police were required to wear gas masks and helmets, but
young activists with gas masks in their backpacks were portrayed
as violent thugs. in the detentions and searches of backpacks
during the week, the police were apparently seeking materials for
their press conferences, and they did find piles of gas masks
(nevermind that they’re legal in this city). but we now have
piles of their bullets.

it's very hard to claim that protesters were intending violence
when half of all backpacks in the entire city had been searched.
nevermind that the detentions had no probable cause and the
searches were illegal, the police and public now knows with great
certainty that protesters, even the grubbiest, angriest, and most
vegetarian of them, who were subject to the most profiling and, in
many cases, multiple stops and searches during the week, were
not found to be carrying a single weapon! these were probably the
most upstanding collection of youngsters in america, since these
searches also resulted in only ONE charge of a controlled
substance and it turned out to be a pre-scrip-tion medi-ca-tion!

the thursday morning direct action had been a predictable series
of clever, but puny, actions focused on the fence surrounding the
ftaa meetings in the inter-continental hotel. the noon afl-cio rally
and march was unusually militarized. but no one expected what
happened in the afternoon. at 3:53 pm activists remaining in the
streets after the end of the union march were told by a police
representative with a bullhorn that the demonstration could
continue "until there is violence". within seven minutes, a wall of
police moved on the crowd, firing rubber bullets and teargas and
eviscerating all of our elaborate tactical debates, color-coded
spatial and temporal distinctions of action intensity zones, and
painstakingly-wrought "action guidelines" .

in the next four hours MAD received hundreds of calls bringing
overwhelming, terrifying information from our legal observers,
friends, and activists in the street. they told us who they had just
seen beaten to the ground, dragged into an unmarked car, or
brutally arrested, that they were running, that they were being
pursued, and that they didn’t know where they could go to be
safe. the lawyers and police liaisons working with our team were
all at locations surrounded by armies of riot police and could not
be reached on their cell phones. we knew that the activists’
"convergence center" was surrounded by an army. we put out the
word to people to take off dark clothes and get inside anywhere
they could. and we told our legal observers to take off their
distinctive hats as they were, apparently, at particular risk.

‘hunting’ is really the right word to describe what
happened. on november 23, the miami herald said that police
chief timoney hunts activists "like a hawk picking mice off a field"
the november 17 sun-sentinel said timoney himself calls it "a
game of cat and mouse". the november 21 orlando sentinel
quoted Timoney saying "if we don’t lock ‘em up tonight,
we’ll lock ‘em up tomorrow, so let’s lock ‘em
up." and this week was described by miami mayor manuel diaz as
"the model for homeland defense"…

the police stated that these measures were necessary to control
protesters intending violence. as wednesday’s press release
from MAD stated, the vicious, unnecessary, and vindictive
targeting of activists had no justification and did not follow any
pattern based on profile. there is no evidence of violent behavior
justifying the police response. a soft plastic fence was torn down
and a few cardboard fires were set. there were no broken
windows. the well-publicized "padded bloc" (based on the
European tactic of Tute Bianchi) never even appeared in the
streets; so even the most militant (while avowedly non-violent)
element of the protest could not be blamed for the response.
apparently the only probable cause needed by the police was the
media’s uninformed but insistent pairing of the words
‘anarchist’ and ‘violent’.

in response to resounding non-provocation, we have confirmed
reports that police used a wide variety of weapons: rubber bullets,
plastic bullets, beanbags, a new weapon containing metal pellets
which explode on contact and leave shrapnel in the body, tear
gas, pepper spray, and tasers. the medics confirmed that rubber
bullets were directly shot into the face, resulting in at least five
head wounds. medics report dozens of serious injuries. MAD
confirms receipt of police misconduct reports documenting ten
beatings and seven incidents of detainees being held at gunpoint.
two activists are still in hospital, one with brain damage and the
other awaiting surgery to remove fragmented metal projectiles
from his face.

justified on the grounds that the afl-cio refused to exclude
non-members, they were restricted entry to and egress from their
permitted rally area, agreements for bus access were revoked, the
march route was changed after it had begun, and union members
and afl retirees were brutally arrested. other groups were also
denied use of permits. unitarians attempting to attend an
educational workshop at a methodist church on thursday were
barred entry by dozens of riot police and bomb squad personnel
from several agencies (local, federal, ATF, and others
unspecified) and the event was cancelled.

{pull quote} the presumption was that if you were in the street or
on the sidewalk in the downtown area of miami, you were an
activist, and therefore a criminal.

activists, once defined as criminals, were then hunted and
terrorized by local, state, and federal agencies unbound from the
rule of constitutional law. currently in the legal office we are
cataloguing lists of violations of the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, and
eighth amendments. early in the week, somebody joked that "all
the even-numbered amendments had been suspended in
miami…and of course the first."

the wholesale criminalization of activists included the targeting of
clearly marked safety personnel, indicating that "homeland
defense" is not concerned with public health and safety. medics
were denied access to areas where people were injured and shot
at while treating people. legal observers were targeted for beatings
and violent arrests. union marshals, lawyers, and police liaisons
were arrested. snatch squads showcase hemispheric free trade in
political repression as these are terror tactics taught at the School
of the Americas and used by Latin American paramilitaries.

still in shock from thursday, activists did the classic thing and
held a press conference and vigil outside the courthouse/jail on
friday. police initially informed 200 activists that they could
demonstrate in an adjacent parking lot. after the activists held an
excellent street spokescouncil, police issued a 3-minute dispersal
order. as people were trying to disperse, and to the amazement of
courthouse staff, the 680 riot cops on the scene surrounded,
pepper sprayed, and arrested about 70 people, including a retired
miami attorney along with three other legal observers in
distinctive hats, as well as a lawyer acting as police liaison.

once in custody, the terror tactics continued. processing of
arrestees was slow and inaccurate. paperwork was lost, access to
counsel and phone calls was denied, public defenders were
frustrated by constantly changing procedures in jails and courts,
excessive bails were set (such as five thousand dollars for the
misdemeanor "resisting arrest without violence"), and there were
extreme delays in bond release (up to 12 hours). those arrested on
friday afternoon, charged with "unlawful assembly", "failure to
disperse", and "resisting without violence", were held on average
$1500 bail, denied food and water for 8-16 hours, and some were
strip-searched (and several of the strip searches were done by or
in front of the opposite gender).

signed jail outtake reports document five cases of denial of
medical care in custody, 30 cases of serious handcuff abuse
(keeping people in handcuffs for thirteen hours with cuffs so tight
that their hands turned purple), 4 cases of sexual assault, ten
death threats, six other threats of bodily harm, ten reports of
people beaten or pepper sprayed while cuffed or sprayed directly
in the face, one report of a person forced to sign a confession not
written by the defendant, and arrestees threatened with federal
charges and federal detention for not revealing their national
origin (not a crime).

many of us have pushed ourselves beyond exhaustion in our
efforts to simultaneously express our dissent, care for one
another, and address misunderstandings and tensions in the
interest of future solidarity. for several days, there was no time to
discuss having been hunted, jailed, and beaten, because there
was too much work to do. we just pushed on, leaving ourselves
for later. one of the dedicated young street medics, Jordan Fader,
died saturday morning of viral meningitis, his immune system
weakened by exposure to chemical weapons in the streets and his
valiant efforts to care for others in a context of police violence.

welcome to "homeland security".

* i am not a spokesperson for and none of this document may be
taken as representing Miami Activist Defense (MAD).

this text may be reproduced in whole or in part only by
permission of the author. contact starr@chapman.edu.

to donate to the Miami Activist Defense legal support fund,
please go to www.stopftaa.org/legal. please note that the "legal
support fund" for which United for Peace & Justice has been
so-li-ci-ting is not connected with any actual legal support work that
we know of.

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