Letters from the Issue of December 18, 2003
We cops prevented chaos and we're proud of it: After reading New Times's coverage of the FTAA protests, I wanted to add my view of the events. I was on the other side of the line -- the side getting bottles of urine, golf balls, and rocks thrown at us. The side getting face shields spray-painted white, assaulted with sticks and boards and tear gas thrown at us (thrown at us, not returned as previously alluded to in various press reports). The side that was going to be assaulted with buckets of excrement.
Via training and command directives, the City of Miami Police Department and its counterparts were fully prepared to provide First Amendment zones to legitimate protesters, whether they be union members or anarchists, as long as they demonstrated in a peaceful and non-violent manner. But that which was the case on Wednesday evening when the Immokalee Farm Workers peacefully protested was not the case on Thursday morning when the anarchists showed up. From early chat rooms to public advertisements, the non-conforming anarchists proposed an unpermitted and illegal rush to the wall where their expressed intent was to breach the wall and storm the Inter-Continental Hotel. This was clearly evident in the morning when they used grappling hooks to attempt to tear down the fence. Due to the quick reaction by gate personnel and response platoon movements, the anarchists were quickly moved off the fence and redirected north on Biscayne Boulevard.
In terms of the afternoon's events, the quick and assertive actions by the police most certainly prevented chaos from occurring. Was there an overreaction by the police? I believe it is not up to the media or the police to decide. The community's safety and overall results will speak for themselves: (1) Two peaceful and permitted marches occurred with little or no negative interactions by the police or the protesters; much planning and cooperation was experienced by all parties involved. (2) The downtown core area was secured and protected from endless acts of vandalism and destruction. (3) The expressed intent of the anarchists to cause destruction and chaos was thwarted, and (4) The police exercised great restraint in the face of great antagonism and adversity to professionally maintain calm and order.
Saturday morning saw business as usual as business owners opened up, workers traveled to their places of employment, shoppers shopped, and visitors experienced the majesty that Miami has to offer. Overall, I would say that the police performed in an exceptional manner and I am personally proud to have been a part of that effort.
Lt. Kenneth H. Nelson
Miami Police Department
Apparently when a reporter says even one nice thing about cops: As reported by Francisco Alvarado ("Press Pass and a Gas Mask," December 4), Edward Wasserman's remarks about embedded journalists reflect the liberal press's attitude that police can do no right. His comment that embedded journalists' stories are "overly fair, overly sympathetic, and reflective of the police mentality" is ludicrous. What is overly fair? When can one (the police or a reporter) be overly fair? Are there degrees of fairness when it comes to reporting? Can a cop be overly honest? Or anyone else for that matter?
Yes, reporters can be overly sympathetic but where did we see or read that? Which embedded reporter wrote a story on the injured officers or the worry and inconvenience to the officers' families? Did I miss those overly sympathetic articles? Oh yeah, and his "reflective of the police mentality" -- isn't anything a reporter reports a reflection on something to some degree? Is police mentality always a bad thing, as Mr. Wasserman intimates? What about the police mentality to catch a rapist or find a missing child or rush into a burning house? Come on, Mr. Wasserman, what better way to prevent police from operating in the dark and to assure public confidence than to have reporters who are free to write as they see things while riding with the police? Your attitude is such that if the police had handed out flowers to the protesters as they trashed downtown Miami, the police would still not have done anything right.
Clever turns of phrase can't hide abominable ignorance: Brett Sokol's recent "Kulchur" column of cynical/satirical advice to FTAA protesters ("Direct Action Reaction," December 4) was good for little more than the meanness of his personal attacks on them and the clever phrase used to describe Timoney's "Mayor Daley moment." Sokol seems to have spoken to no organizers of direct action, instead recycling mass media clichés and blaming them for being beaten by the police. He also seems to think that the unprovoked police attacks against seniors and steelworkers is their fault.
Sorry, Mr. Sokol, but you seem to have absolutely no idea what direct action is. Contrary to what you explicitly state, direct action is not provoking a fight with police. Rather direct action refers to protests which intend to actively stop something that is being protested. In Seattle, the Direct Action Network locked down in front of the meeting space of the WTO to prevent the meeting from happening. Many consider the window-smashing (done by a different group of people) to be direct action. It is important to note, however, that DAN was able to negotiate with the window-smashers that they not commit any vandalism or property damage unless/until the police started attacking protesters. Well, the police attacked the blockades with batons, pepper spray, and tear gas, and the window-smashers escalated in turn.
Nothing like window-smashing was planned in Miami. Protesters wanted to breach the fence so the meetings would be disrupted and the delegates would know that plenty of Americans were also against the agenda of the U.S. trade representatives. We dreamed of getting within the security perimeter that would have caused an evacuation of the meetings. We might have been able to preemptively avoid the policies of the FTAA that would undermine workers' organizing rights here and there, would cause a collapse of small-scale agriculture (as happened in Mexico after NAFTA), and give transnational corporations more power to dictate economic policy.
The way Brett Sokol dismisses those who use direct action as a tactic is confusing, demonizing, and dishonest.
Okay, so some kids threw some stuff -- they're, like, really pissed off: Brett Sokol's critique was one of the more interesting I've read about the FTAA protests, partially because few people are writing critiques. I think he is tackling some of the flaws of "the movement," though I don't think he was right about people claiming there were no anarchists. I do agree with him, however, that "they weren't all cops acting as agents provocateurs." And there were folks throwing rocks, bottles, starting fires, whatever in a manner that didn't appear to be self-defense. (Let it be known that if these were acts of self-defense I would support them.)
It's true that many kids on the street don't have a clear vision of the change they want to see or quite how to approach it. But in their (our) defense, how the fuck could we? We live in America. We didn't grow up learning about these things in school. We didn't see it on our televisions. Few of us have experienced the obvious and overt repression used by some companies in Latin America. Here it's generally more subtle and more of a mind-fuck.
There are a handful of kids drawn to protests just because they are fucking pissed off, no doubt. And perhaps it is those kids who are throwing things at the cops, not just in the name of the FTAA but in the name of the whole damn picture. These kids are expressing something very real, an oppression and repression that is connected to the police-state at large, to capitalism, and yes, to the FTAA and all its methodologies. They feel something very real and have a genuine need to express it. Who knows what will be learned in the process?
Last time I checked, Hugo Chavez hadn't nationalized a thing: In "Direct Action Reaction" Brett Sokol bemoaned "the type of nationalization and class warfare that have plunged Venezuela into a stifling depression." Mr. Sokol would do well to check his facts before making such a statement.
Since taking office in 1998, Hugo Chavez has not nationalized a single industry, or even a single firm. While the personal style of Chavez has certainly enraged many in Venezuela's traditional ruling class, his economic policies could most accurately be described as social democratic. Most of the recent economic trouble in Venezuela has been caused by the destructive strikes and violent coup staged by the opposition.
Consulate of Venezuela
New Hotel Rules
Check-out time for scab-encrusted lepers is now: It seems like politically correct hypocrisy for Juan Carlos Rodriguez to write a patronizing article about some transgender person who had a skin disease and was full of scabs and probably did bleed on her hotel bed sheets ("The Beach Welcomes All," November 27). Why should the minimum-wage-slave maids have to clean up after some scab-encrusted leper? Don't they have a right to ask that lady to get a room somewhere else?
Just because someone is a member of some "special" group does not give them the right to expose others to their various diseases.
It Don't Mean a Thing
If you ain't got the address of that swing: Regarding Abel Folgar's "Here is the Jazz!" published on November 27: Great piece! There are lots of us jazz-hungry folks out there. Now just where is this Gil's Café?
Editor's note: Sorry about that. Gil's Café is located at 216 71st St., Miami Beach. Call 305-867-0779.
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