FTAA Protests vs. Miami Police

Based on a busy news week, and no good rioting newsclips, this may not have been a big news item for you all, but the Free Trade Area of the Americas meetings were held here in Miami this past week (basically FTAA would be an expansion of NAFTA to every nation in this hemisphere, minus Cuba). There were the many protest groups; anarchists, communists, labor unions, AFL-CIO, representatives of disadvantaged nations and farmworkers, anti-globalization people, and the like. A very mixed bag, many with educational agendas, a few with destructive agendas. We have seen it all before.

Cop’s story.
Some photos.

What Miami did was shut down the businesses in the area and cut off traffic for a week, and then present a HUGE police presence, an actual wall of riot-gear clad police officers, with reaction forces waiting nearby, water cannon armored vehicles, police helos and the like, nearly FULLY surrounding the protest area, which was near the meeting area (with a block or two, and with a clear line of sight, I believe). For the most part things went well, but there were protesters who challenged the cops, and cops who overreacted and popped protesters (unprovoked or not, don’t know, wasn’t there). There are allegations of illegal arrests, police abondoning the personal property of those they arrested, and other similar, fairly low key problems.

There were 172 arrests, and 142 demonstrators treated for injuries (don’t know how many of those overlap). Maybe 20-25,000 protesters overall.

570 were arrested in Seattle at the 1999 WTO events, as a comparison, with one estimate of 50,000 protesters.

I believe the police presence was meant to be intimidating, and the intimidation was to keep rioting, injury and destruction at a minimum. It is being called “heavy handed” in the press, and I think that is exactly what the Miami officials wanted.

What is your opinion of the Police presence and reactions to the protesters? Or did you even know it was happening?

You throw the anarchists in there and I have no sympathy. I get the impression they aren’t protesting as much as trying to start shit with the police.

I agree with SmackFu. I live in Miami, I have very dear friends who work downtown at Bayside Marketplace, and I often get called downtown for temp work, where I ride Metrorail and Metromover. I was worried the FTAA Summit would turn into another Seattle, since Miami is already a far less “civilized” place to live. But from being glued to our local Channel 4, it looks like the police did their job bravely and fairly, and kept violence and trouble to the barest minimum.

Let me get something straight: from what I have read and heard, I disagree with the FTAA and its goals, and I respect many of the protestors and agree with them on several issues. I consider myself a political moderate, but definitely more liberal on social and economic issues. But there are always elements in crowds like this who don’t care about the issues, who are just looking for excuses to start trouble, antagonize police, loot and vandalize and then leave town. The police worked together to keep this from happening, and I applaud them.