No Rest for the Weary Agitator
Miami Mayor Manny Diaz may be relieved to learn that Jamie Loughner hitchhiked out of Miami two weeks ago and headed home to Washington, D.C. Loughner was one of the more than 230 people arrested this past November during protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). According to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, police charged 203 people with misdemeanors and 28 with felonies.
Loughner was charged with two misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest without violence and one of obstruction by a disguised person, apparently for refusing to give officers her name. She was booked as Jane Doe and spent five nights in jail. At her February 10 trial prosecutors asked Circuit Court Judge Beth Bloom for more time to prepare their case. In a stinging rebuke, Bloom denied the request and quickly dismissed the charges against Loughner.
But the 39-year-old Loughner, known in Washington, D.C., activist circles as Bork, is not through with the City of Miami just yet. She alleges that while police detained her, with her hands cuffed behind her back, at least one Miami officer painfully and repeatedly twisted her thumb in an effort to force her to identify herself. (See "Bork Torque," December 18, 2003.) Hers was the first complaint filed with Miami's Civilian Investigative Panel, created to pursue allegations of police misconduct. The CIP, which can subpoena individuals to testify, has yet to hire any investigators, even though a year has passed since its inaugural meeting. Which means Loughner's case will be haunting Mayor Diaz and Miami Police Chief John Timoney for a while longer.
Loughner, however, is not the type to wait patiently for bureaucratic wheels to turn, especially when her own charges of police brutality are involved. She has already proven herself to be an irksome annoyance to Diaz. Armed with a tape recorder, she ambushed the mayor in late January while he was in Washington attending the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Loughner, who writes articles for www.indymedia.org, provided New Times with a copy of the tape, which contains two interviews. In the first, Loughner and an Indymedia colleague asked Diaz if he still approved of his police department's conduct even though some demonstrators were seriously injured and others ... tortured.
Diaz: "I have no information that anyone was tortured."
Loughner: "I was."
Diaz: "You were tortured?"
Diaz: "By whom?"
Loughner: "One officer was Mendez."
Diaz: "I don't have any evidence of that, certainly not the City of Miami police. I stand by the actions of the police department."
Later in the day Loughner tracked down Diaz for a second interview, during which she reminded the mayor of comments made by Circuit Court Judge Richard Margolius, who said that at the height of the FTAA demonstrations, on November 20, he witnessed "no less than twenty felonies committed by police officers."
That set off Diaz. "You know, could I ask you a question?" the mayor testily replied. "Why don't you begin to condemn the people that are making it impossible for the message to get out about free trade? The people that come into cities for the sole purpose of disrupting the summit, creating property damage, injuring people. Why don't you start condemning those people? We have hundreds and hundreds of demonstrations in Miami every year. Hundreds of thousands of people every year. Nothing ever happens." (One notable exception: the violent protests that erupted after federal agents snatched Elian Gonzalez in April 2000. Political analysts say outrage in the Cuban community over abuses by the Miami police officers who quelled those protests ensured passage of the ballot initiative that created the CIP.)
The mayor then told Loughner that the extensive deployment of heavily armed riot police was justified because he expected tens of thousands of violent protesters. "The information we had was that there was going to be over 50,000 people," Diaz said, "and the statements and the e-mails that we all reviewed indicated that they were coming into Miami to create havoc and to create property damage and that people were going to get hurt. And we have to do whatever we can to protect the citizens of Miami."
Loughner: "So when over 110 protesters are injured by police, you don't consider that 'getting hurt'?"
Diaz: "Well, I don't know what the number is, but obviously when something like that happens, people are going to get hurt, and that's unfortunate. But the question again to me is, 'Who is the guilty party?' Were it not for those people who professed to come into our city for the sole purpose of creating that kind of a problem, there would not be a police presence out there. And it seems to me that's where we ought to start focusing our energies."
Loughner mentioned her complaint before the CIP. "They threatened to break my thumbs in order to try and get my name, sir," she said.
Diaz: "Well, that's unfortunate, but that's what this independent panel is for. They'll do their investigation and whatever comes out will come out. It's a very transparent investigation. They have subpoena power. The elected officials and the chief and everybody is on board to look at what happened and make any kind of changes that need to be made."
Loughner: "Would that include [firing] the police chief if he was found culpable?"
Diaz: "Well, I don't think that's going to happen."
Loughner: "Nonetheless, if he was."
Diaz: "Again you're diverting your attention to the wrong focus. You guys have it in for the chief. I think the chief did an excellent job and I support him."
Loughner: "Thank you."
The woman who calls herself Bork chose not to dog Mayor Diaz last month when she returned to Miami for her trial. Instead she turned her attention to a new target: the conditions at the Miami-Dade County men's jail (1321 NW Thirteenth St.) and the women's jail (1401 NW Seventh Ave.). After the judge threw out her case, Loughner spent several days interviewing men and women as they exited the facilities. "This is one of the worst jails I've seen in my life!" a guy named Paul told her one morning. "There's people sleeping right where you urinate.... They give blankets but they never wash them!"
"I can break it down to one word: horrific!" offered a man named Artie. "It's cold in there! There's urine and shit all over the place."
Loughner recruited several young FTAA protesters to continue taking testimonials outside the jails as part of a new activist group she's calling the Miami Prisoners Solidarity Network. "We're taking on the prison system," she declares, adding that she'll be coming back to town, maybe even permanently: "In a few months I might move down here. I guess Timoney really will regret arresting me."
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.