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(en) US, Miami, MEDIA: Police describe some of the free trade protesters as 'anarchists'

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 20 Nov 2003 09:27:44 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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MIAMI -- They have no leaders. So they often spend hours in meetings,
trying to reach consensus among each and every one of them. They like punk
music and the color black. They hate Starbucks, logos and
any symbols of "corporate greed." They're young idealists and older
intellectuals; they're loosely organized yet highly mobilized.
They're anarchists -- best known for the mayhem and destruction left in
their wake at Seattle's World Trade Organization meeting four years ago.
Police see them as bored, rich, white kids who only want to cause trouble.
They blame them for burning buildings, smashing windows and
overturning cars at anti-globalization protests worldwide.

The FBI has profiled them. Officers who have encountered them share
information about them.

Now South Florida law enforcement agencies are preparing for them.

Though violent protesters are expected to make up only a small
percentage of the more than 20,000 demonstrators at the Free Trade Area
of the Americas meeting next week, police say the "anarchists" are the
ones they're worried about.

For the past seven months, Miami police have spent countless hours
familiarizing their officers with the more creative tactics they say
anarchists use: wrist rockets? that can fling ball bearings into crowds,
Molotov cocktails, squirt guns filled with acid or urine.

"If they come here to violate the law and jeopardize other people's safety,
then we're going to put a stop to that," said Deputy Miami Police Chief
Frank Fernández, who has been overseeing the police preparations for
the meeting.

Anarchists say they are just misunderstood.

The movement's proponents insist that anarchy is not about violence --
many of them don't consider property destruction violent -- but about
striving for direct democracy where everyone's voice is truly heard.

"The idea that the police have been giving a lot of people is that anarchy
equals complete chaos, disorder and violence," said Andrew Willis, a
college student in Washington, D.C., who is helping organize groups of
anarchists to protest in Miami. "I would say it's more of a basic
ideological critique of power in society."

Willis sees civil disobedience as fair game.

Blocking intersections, dropping huge banners from buildings and causing
general disruptions to prevent international trade ministers from getting to
trade meetings have been borne out of necessity, said Willis, whose
parents live in Weston. But very few are violent, he said.

Some residents and business people, however, already are on edge about
the potential for mayhem.

According to a memo distributed by an international security firm to
corporate clients, some of the more aggressive protesters during past
anti-globalization demonstrations have armed themselves with body
armor and padding, then fired paint bombs at police and used catapults to
fling "nasty things" into crowds.

"In Seattle, anarchists vandalized and destroyed property in the heart of
downtown," warned Tom Cash, a retired DEA agent who wrote the memo
as senior managing director for Kroll, Inc. "They used crowbars to break
glass windows and plate glass storefronts, burned cars and garbage
dumpsters and started fires in strip malls."

David Graeber, an anarchist who teaches anthropology at Yale
University, said the warnings about these dreaded activists have gone
too far. Few anarchists have ever broken anything, much less resorted to
physical violence, he said.

Graeber says law enforcement officials often engage in "bizarre police
psychological warfare" to scare the public in order to justify their own
heavy-handed tactics and large police mobilizations.

"The more they hype this stuff up, the more destruction and violence they
predict, the more they can take credit for the protesters' own good
behavior," said Graeber said. "It will look like they had a great victory."

Even peaceful activists say "overblown security concerns" are casting a
shadow on the real issues at stake: worker rights, environmental
protection and corporate dominance.

If there is violence, it can just as easily come from police, said Sushma
Sheth, policy director at the Miami Workers Center, who is participating
in a peaceful march against the FTAA.

She said activists have trained their own "marshals," to keep
demonstrators safe from attacks from anarchists -- or police.

Despite the bad press anarchists received during recent protests, even
some peaceful activists credit the attention-grabbing tactics of these
extreme activists at trade talks in Seattle for thrusting the
anti-globalization movement into the spotlight.

Anarchist thought can be traced to at least the 19th century. Anarchy,
based on the Greek word for "no rulers," is often associated with chaos
and the violent overthrow of government. [An anarchist assassinated
President William McKinley in 1901.]

Anarchists today -- made up mostly of college students,
twenty-somethings and intellectuals -- say they are more likely to work
within the confines of civil society, focusing instead on advocating for a
return to true egalitarianism.

Noam Chomsky, the MIT linguistics professor who has helped spread
anarchist thought through his writings, argues that the philosophy appeals
to people who have become disillusioned with modern democracy.

Many anarchists spend a surprising amount of time in meetings. They
form consensus among participants before a protest, making decisions as
a whole through "spokescouncils."

Small groups of friends, known as affinity groups, appoint delegates or
"spokes" to relay messages between the other groups, in effect doing
away with any leaders.

Some, tired of waiting for change, espouse a more aggressive stance,
engaging in "black bloc" tactics.

These include forming human blockades by linking their arms with
"sleeping dragons," contraptions made out of everything from PVC pipes
and concrete, to make it difficult for police to do mass arrests. Another
tactic, "padded blocs," allow protesters to sustain blows from police by
wrapping their bodies with foam.

Perhaps the most aggressive of these tactics is known as "unarresting,"
where black blocs snatch those arrested away from police. Some taunt
police to try to get them to use force. A few have engaged in combat with

"I think there is an understanding that peaceful, agreed-upon protest as
usual is not going to achieve much of anything," said John Zerzan, an
anarchist writer from Eugene, Ore., who gained notoriety for his
correspondence with convicted Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. "The whole
black bloc militancy and impatience is based on that."

Staff Writer Madeline Baró Diaz contributed to this report.
Copied from Infoshop.org

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