By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
In hindsight what I saw were tens of thousands of peaceful protesters who exercised their constitutional rights and did not go to jail. I saw many hard-working Miami store owners thanking the Lord that they did not lose all they have worked so hard for either in the downtown, Bayside, or Brickell areas. I saw a bunch of confused, troublemaking punks who could not get their acts together because of the hard training and commitment of South Florida law enforcement. Whatever strategies the anarchists had, they all went to hell in a hand basket. I saw very, very few journalists getting a hard time from the police. Could it be -- maybe, just maybe -- that Ms. Delgado represents a small minority just like the rest of the people who were arrested?
I have a very open mind, and I certainly respect Ms. Delgado's opinion. But it seems that so many "bleeding hearts" are trying to drum up something where nothing exists. It almost seems like the old adage: "Light the fire so you can be the hero and put it out." Why don't those malcontents ask the citizenry of Miami (and South Florida in general) their opinion of our law-enforcement efforts? Trust me, there are many times when we are criticized (and perhaps rightfully so), but this isn't one of those times. Get over it, will ya?!
Call it the first step on the road to tyranny: Sometimes I wonder if Miami city officials operate under the belief that bad publicity is better than no publicity. It seems Miami always finds a way to stay in the spotlight, whether it be a five-year-old Cuban boy, or adding "hanging chads" to our vocabulary, or getting the distinction of being the poorest metropolis in the U.S.
The FTAA meetings, however, brought us a new low with a rampant abuse of power. The tactics used by the local government were even more frightening than the trade talks themselves, as I witnessed our civil liberties being taken away in preparation for the police state that followed. You see, for weeks we'd been hearing about the 60,000 to 100,000 demonstrators who were going to descend on Miami and attempt to disrupt the trade negotiations with the destructive tactics seen in Seattle. The fear ran deep and resulted in $8 million of the $87 billion federal defense package being allocated for law enforcement's use. It also convinced the city commission to pass an ordinance banning almost anything that could be used as a weapon. Downtown Miami was literally shut down in preparation for the anticipated destruction: Schools were closed, cruise ships rerouted, stores boarded up, and churches threatened for offering space for demonstrators to stay.
What I personally saw was a large group of concerned citizens who wanted a chance to be heard by using their rights to assembly. Eight college students from Ohio State stayed at my house, and they were all intelligent, compassionate young people -- not the least bit interested in violent activity but also recognizing the danger they faced in standing up to the police. There were steelworkers from Pittsburgh, retirees, environmental groups, animal-rights groups, Green Party members, faith-based groups -- all coming together on this issue of the FTAA.
The union march around Miami lasted a couple of hours and ended where it started, at Bayfront Park. Since there wasn't much going on afterward, some people began to leave and some found a place to rest either in the grass or on Biscayne Boulevard. Our small group decided to visit the amphitheater, but there wasn't much activity there either. Soon after that, from our vantage point in the amphitheater, we could tell that some commotion had taken place on the street -- no doubt some people intent on causing trouble.
What I witnessed after that was a complete overreaction from the police, who used tear gas to force the crowd back, which worked very well. What I don't understand is why I saw dozens of rubber bullets fired into the crowd, one of which hit a middle-age woman in front of me (well away from any disturbance). What I saw being thrown at the police were smoke canisters and plastic water bottles, but the protesters were at least ten yards away, so the objects weren't very effective against the Robo Cops.
At that point the police line decided not to just hold the line they had established for the entire day, but decided to move into the crowd. They marched up Biscayne Boulevard, continuing to use tear gas and the rubber bullets (my daughter has a large welt and bruise on the back of her calf as a souvenir). The result was that the vast majority of the crowd, which had no violent intentions, was caught up in the disturbance, with people leaving Biscayne Boulevard because there were police both north and south of us. We exited along Third Street with the taste of tear gas in the air to head back to the Metrorail station. There were many others doing the same thing, but I don't know where the thousands went who were in front of Bayfront Park just a few minutes earlier.