Letters from the Issue of December 4, 2003
Let us praise the wisdom and vision of our leaders: Thanks to the foresight of our noble leaders, a terrible disaster was averted two weeks ago in downtown Miami. It is my understanding that extremely boisterous gangs of environmentalist tree-huggers, anti-trade rogues, and general lovers of chaos were about to descend upon our fair city. These malicious, baby-eating terrorists, I am told by local newscasters, included members of a brand-new and particularly nasty group of Godless ruffians called "anarchists." These anarchists seem to oppose every single thing that civilized, decent, and forward-thinking people stand for. For absolutely no intelligible reason, these misguided souls are against the meritorious Free Trade Area of the Americas. I know about this in part because I've read Celeste Fraser Delgado's firsthand account ("Jailhouse Crock," November 27) and Tristram Korten's penetrating analysis ("Now Entering Fort Miami," November 27).
Thank God for our local leaders. For a mere $11 million or so in taxpayer money these eco-anarcho-anti-GAP terrorists were stopped dead in their tracks. Since their civil rights (to assembly and free speech, for example) were prudently abridged immediately prior to the FTAA conference, and since they were outnumbered ten-to-one by baton-wielding, tear-gas-spraying, rubber-bullet-shooting police in riot gear, these hooligans only succeeded in clogging our jails and sometimes spilling blood on our sidewalks, although it was easily washed off. The thousand people who had the fortitude and pure dastardly evil intent to navigate police roadblocks and checkpoints were met by roughly 10,000 police officers.
The tremendous hemorrhage of taxpayer money on police overtime, preparatory training, and the complicated task of effectively shuttering downtown Miami for several days appears to be well worth it. Now we stand a real chance of being selected as the city in which such protests may take place with nauseating regularity in the future. I am told we may even be able to reuse all that police gear, thereby improving the cost-effectiveness of those shields and water cannons, for example. This is the type of fiscal responsibility I would expect from the leaders of America's Poorest City. We may have only about twelve books in our downtown library, but by God, if a Girl Scout rally gets out of hand in downtown Miami, we'll have heavily armed riot police immediately on hand.
Bravo, Miami leaders! Those of you who are not currently under indictment or serving time in federal prison are truly worth your weight in gold for all you are doing for your fair city.
Thomas A. Gorchs
See You in Court
Want to get their attention? Sue the bastards: I'm disgusted but not surprised at the police terrorism against generally peaceful protesters at the FTAA meeting in Miami. The police actions bring to mind one word: "wilding," violence just for kicks, with no regard for the law, the U.S. Constitution, or self-defense.
I hope everyone attacked or arrested during the FTAA protest sues and sues hard. Animals like Miami Police Chief John Timoney don't listen to reason, but they (and the city's attorneys) will listen to a lawsuit that will cost them millions of dollars because some testosterone-crazed yahoo cops wanted to beat up and shoot people who wouldn't fight back.
Duped media carried the government's scary message: Regarding the recent FTAA event, I appreciate the difficult job the police had to do and the concerns of downtown retailers and other businesses. Keeping down the potential for serious violence was a gargantuan task. But I was shocked at the portrayal of the Miami demonstrators by some government officials and much of the mainstream media.
Most people who came to protest had nothing to gain personally, and most were pacifists. They marched because they have strong beliefs about how world economies and societies should evolve. They feel the FTAA's goals conflict with the basic rights of citizens here and abroad. Many are selfless in their concerns, worried about how FTAA rules would affect non-Americans and those people's desires to have what we expect: a clean environment, decent wages, children not being forced into sweatshops.
September 11 made us wary of the dangers around us, but it also made us more aware of how much Americans are hated abroad. One reason for this hatred is the perception that, as a nation, we are out only for ourselves. Many FTAA protesters were here because they think we as a nation need to be more responsible in improving the quality of life, not just here but also abroad. They believe that helping people in other countries -- with food to eat, decent jobs, clean air -- will forestall conflicts. In fact some believe that focusing on these areas is the most efficient way to protect against future terrorist attacks.
Yet our government and media demonized the FTAA protesters and did their best to make sure we stayed away from downtown Miami. History tells us that if we let Big Brother scare us into disrespecting nonmainstream opinions, we'll be creating fertile ground for a dictatorial government to take root should social conditions change. Democracy in America is not guaranteed.
Cops Gone Wild: Television Loves Action
We learned that trick way back in the Sixties: As a long-retired "student radical" from the last millennium, I know a little about protest tactics. Our "street actions" in the Sixties had little to do with political issues in a direct sense. There was no sincere effort to educate or persuade with our signs or syncopated chanting. We were realistic enough to know that we were just talking to ourselves and that policy was shaped in places other than street corners. We also knew that an uneventful "peaceful protest" was a gigantic snore that would go unreported in the press.
Our real goal in taking to the streets was to provoke the police to behave badly and hopefully produce the classic money shot of a protester (preferably young and skinny) being walloped by a policeman (preferably big and resembling Darth Vader) that could lead the evening TV news. We could then use the tortured logic (most effective on the better college campuses) that anything associated with the big bad policeman (a trade policy, military action, or whatever) was evil.
The cops knew that was the game plan and had the anxiety of knowing that within the swarm of gullible and generally harmless protesters lay an unknown number of cynical agents provocateurs intent upon sticking figurative and literal needles under the cops' skin to goad a reaction. If the "innocent" protesters had an ounce of self-awareness they would have realized their sole function was to provide cover for these mini-terrorists and gone home. But that's asking too much. It was way too much fun assuming the self-righteous mantle of the martyr and being written about in fawning media coverage of how "the man" thwarted their rights, blah, blah.
Been there, done that many years ago. It's a shame this tired old trick continues to manipulate supposedly well-educated and skeptical journalists.
Editor's note: Seth Gordon is chairman of the City of Miami Arts and Entertainment Council and has been active in several local political campaigns.
The band Superlitio was incorrectly identified as Kinky in the photo accompanying "Shake" by Celeste Fraser Delgado (November 27). New Times regrets the error.
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