Permits to allow camping in public spaces were denied.

Police diverted buses of elderly protesters blocks from where they were to gather.

Secret police within the crowds of protesters picked out individuals to attack.

Photo equipment was routinely confiscated.

Police also routinely rounded up groups of people without cause, dumping their belongings in the street, pepper-spraying or clubbing many of them, then holding them incommunicado for hours.

How could it be any different, some ask? Well, when a city receives $8.5 million in federal money to host a single meeting, you would think all manner of special events and facilities could be organized to facilitate the message of the protesters. For example, the city could have made the Orange Bowl available for a protest rally. It also could have hosted numerous tent villages for protesters. After all, those millions in tax dollars didn't come only from proponents of free trade.

Any city serious about becoming the host for a permanent free-trade headquarters would have facilitated teach-ins, debates, forums, and lectures representing both sides of the issue. It would have helped FTAA opponents organize and publicize the events they sponsored to give them a greater voice. It would have used the occasion to increase understanding of the FTAA, NAFTA, WTO, and other components of globalization affecting us all.

Instead city leaders seem content to congratulate themselves that the massive show of state power prevented any disruption of FTAA meetings. They miss the point that dissidents take to the streets and try to tear down fences when their voices are ignored by established government, business, and press officials. Any fool with a police force can suppress protesters. The world is full of cowardly officials with vested interests to protect. But the world is also full of people who will fight to be heard.

To me it's ironic that this happened in Miami, a city full of people who moved there to escape countries where brutal police tactics are all too common. Unless Miami's leaders believe that state repression of dissent is justified in these other countries, they have nothing to be proud of in how they handled it at home.

John Petrimoulx


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