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News ::
Pittsburgh FTAA consulta report for Miami (english)
25 Sep 2003
report on the ftaa consulta in Pittsburgh. With discussion about general disruption and padded bloc actions in Miami.
Pittsburgh FTAA Consulta Report: First Draft (hopefully more discussion info will be included soon...)

From August 29-August 31st groups came together in Pittsburgh to discuss and coordinate responses to the FTAA summit taking place Nov. 20-21st in Miami Florida.

Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG) called this consulta and 45 people from 18 groups representing around 540 people planning on heading to Miami attended. The following is our report from the perspective of those who planned it. It is by no means a complete account. The information below is taken from personal notes of participants, opinions of those in POG, memory, and some varying accounts. Weíre not sure we got everything right so please report any glaring inaccuracies. This was our first event of its kind and there are a lot of things we could have done differently. Overall, we were happy with the outcome and feel it was a positive step towards Miami.

The discussions:

The consulta centered on two key discussions. The first was discussion of the Padded Bloc planned for Miami and the other was discussion of other direct action possibilities in Miami. There were also break-out sessions on Miami logistics and Puppet/Artistic visioning. Other topics of discussions that were briefly addressed included jail solidarity, legal, and medical.


We were slightly disappointed with the turnout, since the number of groups represented greatly affected the scope of what the consulta could discuss and propose. While the PB discussion had the critical mass of groups to deal with concrete logistics, the general disruption discussion did not (lower numbers were needed for the PB discussion due to the lower number of expected participants overall in Miami as well as the fact that PB organizing is further along). We invite affinity groups that didnít attend for reasons other than lack of time, money, or organizing interest in the FTAA to contact us with suggestions on anything we could have done that would have increased their interest in attending.

Possible future meetings that would include discussions about the Padded Bloc and or Miami in general:

1: There will be a regional consulta in Chicago October 11-12th that aims to continue the discussions that happened in Louisville and Pittsburgh. It will include discussion of the Padded Bloc, a larger DA framework, communications, legal, medical, and more. Call to action at: Folks should register asap.

2: There will be a Southwest Regional FTAA consulta in Denver during the Transform Columbus Day mobilization in Denver (oct 10-13th). This will include reportbacks from Colorado FTAA caravan, mainstream organizers, Pittsburg Organizing Group consulta, on the ground radicals in Miami, Padded Bloc discussion, Other strategies/scenario discussion. Contact: co_consulta (at)

3: Lansing Michigan is holding a weekend of FTAA forums October 25-26th. This will include educational forums as well as discussions about networking, tactics and mobilizations for Miami, non-violence and self defense, what to expect there, what has come out of the pittsburgh and chicago consultas and much more. Contact: dmitch (at)

4: There may be a spokescouncil in Gainesville, FL in early November. This would substitute for (or be in addition to) a general spokescouncil in Miami. It would bring together representatives from Florida groups with affinity groups coming from around the country.

5: Discussions are under way among groups about whether to hold a Padded Bloc spokecouncil Nov. 19th in Miami. Whether or not this occurs will depend on whether itís logistically feasible and how worthwhile groups feel it would be.

Padded Bloc: Some of the following was information relayed by POG and some came out of the discussions.

Padded Bloc Communications among groups:

Besides the meetings listed above, POG has published a PB FAQ on its website. POG has a PB list that it sends updates to. This is not a secure list and exists solely to disseminate updates about general PB organizing thatís occurring. One of the ideas of the PB is that on the affinity group level groups can organize themselves to participate in the padded bloc. These groups could also band together to create larger clusters capable of operating within a larger padded bloc. If groups from Pittsburgh are unable to take part in the PB (if PGH doesnít want to take part in the kinds of actions others do on the day of, if weíre preemptively targeted, if weíre unable to meet up with other groups, etc.) the decentralized nature of the organizing would allow the Padded Contingent(s) to function on the ground in a organized way. Padded Bloc Logistics: POG is proposing a specific decision making and communication structure for the contingent (see PB faq for more explanation)

A logistical rundown of what issues had already been addressed, basically where the PB planning was:

1: The PB should be able to operate independently, without help from Miami organizers or other groups. 2: The actual plan of action will not be decided until the day of the protests, on the ground in Miami. 3: The action plan will be a consensus decision by PB participants once the contingent is assembled. 4: If numbers allow or preferences differ, the contingent may divide. 5: POG will be taking care of affinity group legal support for anyone participating in the padded bloc who is traveling from PGH.

Question on numbers: POG and other groups feel the PB is not feasible without more then 200 participants. More then twice this number are planning on taking part in the contingent who were represented at the PB discussion, therefore thereís no reason to not continue with organizing.

Tactical questions POG has not addressed:

Should there be guidelines for the contingent, how/where to meet on the day of, should the bloc have a spokescouncil, etc.

Guidelines for the contingent: One of the most time consuming aspects of the padded bloc session was discussion of possible guidelines for the contingent. The rationale for those proposing guidelines was based on the following: What groups are hoping to organize is incompatible with letting individuals take whatever actions they deem appropriate to the situation

Some felt that because the contingent is meant to be self-contained with a strong perimeter, it would not be possible for people to move to a different area if they disagreed with the tactics being employed by some folks, certain tactics will directly justify the use of massive violence against the contingent and will jeopardize the goals and safety of participants. The guidelines discussion will continue among participating groups and at the next consulta. Groups should take these guidelines back to their affinity groups for feedback.

People consensed upon having guidelines and to some particular guidelines/points for the contingent. People also discussed a number of possible guidelines that could not be consensed to. There was consensus that those planning on taking part agree in the PB need to agree to abide by these guidelines for the safety of all. The purpose of the guidelines isnít to impose any moral judgments on participants, rather it is to create an environment that allows for all participants to take action in an environment where they can trust the bounds of actions others will take. Some actions, more then others, have direct negative consequences for this type of contingent. One of the goals of the Padded Bloc is to stay together.

The guidelines-points that were consensed upon (by representatives of 15 groups) at the consulta are:

1: The shield perimeter will be maintained
2: We will seek to make our actions work in tandem with the permitted events. We will not endanger the permitted march
3: The PB will make and carry out an action plan internally. Other protest groups will not have a direct role in what we decide to do
4: No guns, knives, drugs, or other dangerous weapons/contraband. Duh!
5: No offensive projectiles: Nothing thrown with the intent to harm people*
6: We will stick to our political goals and will not be drawn into personal grudges against the police
7: We will respect a diversity of tactics by protesters not inside (and hence not part of) the Padded Bloc
8: PB participants must adhere to these guidelines only so long as the PB remains intact.

*one of the reasons for this wording is that participants had concerns about restricting responses in the event of police attack with projectiles (tear gas, etc) in which case the only guideline is that people should avoid actions that may hurt people when getting rid of those projectiles. Also, the guidelines are only adhered to when/if the PB remains a contingent.

The guidelines that we discussed but the group could NOT reach consensus on were (some contradict each other or guidelines that were eventually agreed upon):

1: To defend all persons at the protest no matter what actions they take unless we have reason to believe they are police agents 2: To respect the integrity of other protest groups to the point that we would not march through them/divide them, etc. 3: To exclude random people who want to join the PB on the day of. Only those pre-registered and vouched for will be allowed in the PB.

Look of the PB: San Francisco groups may have a call out for artistic imagery/murals that could be put on shields in Miami. The PB is a super opportunity to get our message out visually. Groups will have ready-made billboards just screaming for imagery that displays our collective vision in contrast with that of the powers that be.

Other DA Actions/ General Miami Logistics: The representative from Florida made clear that if there is to be a larger Direct Action protest framework they will need a lot of help. They do not have the numbers to make it a reality without outside support. Some folks at the consulta indicated they will be going down early to help with this type of organizing. Florida groups will soon hold a statewide meeting to further discuss actions and logistics for Miami. They will be taking back the suggestions and framework ideas of groups at the consulta. It is hoped that groups will help organize and work in conjunction with this larger framework.

Convergence Center in Miami: As of now there is no convergence center in Miami. People voiced a lot of differing opinions about what value a convergence center would have, whether it would be shutdown, what it would look like, and who could organize it. Some feel that it will be very difficult to have a successful convergence without a CC. They feel there is a great need for a place people can go to plug in, meet others to discuss, rest and recuperate, find housing, etc.

Repís from Florida made the Following Points: They are already stretched thin. They do not have the resources or desire to organize a convergence center. A CC in Miami organized by anti-capitalist groups would likely be shutdown by the authorities. If this is something that the larger movement wants to see then there needs to be a critical mass of people willing to put the time and resources into it to make it happen.

Additional Discussion about the CC: There is discussion about having a convergence center type space in Northern Florida in the lead-up to Miami. This would be a stopping place for those on their way to Miami and would serve a lot of the roles CCís typically do (minus the ďduring the actionĒ resources). One national group is considering putting together a convergence center, but these are preliminary discussions.

Puppet/Artistic Protest Elements: Starting the second week in October people will be converging in South Florida to create a diverse, artistic, workspace. They will create a well-equipped art space for building puppets and props to march across the tri-county area (about 60 miles) to the events in Downtown Miami November 19th-21st. The idea is to have a moving procession of the things being built for the summit. In each town folks will meet up with the group and march to the edge of town or to Miami. There is a lot of help needed to utilize the potential of this space and there is a call out to folks around the country to come help. Local organizers who attended the consulta are super excited about the potential of this space and everyone is welcome. Many at the consulta mentioned the need to bring a strong artistic component to actions and this is a perfect way to make it happen. They can provide you with housing, but the earlier you come the better. They also emphasized that this is a safe space that isnít for organizing any direct action in Miami. They can be contacted at (561) 547-6686 or sfglobaljustice (at)

Medical: Medics expressed these concerns:

Those groups participating in the padded bloc cannot expect that a ton of medics will automatically materialize to provide support. There isnít enough communication between groups planning DA and medic collectives.

The following recommendations were made for affinity groups and individuals considering DA: 1: Approach medical collectives in your area about linking up for actions. Itís most ideal when medic support is provided by folks in your area
2: Have affinity group medics for your group 3: Make sure as many people as possible go through medic trainings (even if they donít plan on being in a medic role)
4: Help put together medic trainings

Jail Solidarity: There was some discussion about the possibility of using JS tactics in Miami. There will be a large number of people coming in organized affinity groups and that may make it possible to organize JS within clusters or actions. The effectiveness would depend on how many people are arrested, but it may make sense to plan as if there will be mass arrests. No definite plans were made, but some groups are looking into preparing for this.

Security: Given that two police successfully infiltrated/took part in the Louisville consulta and that our meeting was taking place closer to November we anticipated that the police would take a keen interest in things being discussed. We took a number of security measures that weíre fairly confident ensured that everyone at the morning discussion was who they said they were. The measures used included a system of vouching for people that didnít exclude those who lacked people who knew them, changing the location unannounced to a more secure locale, and a couple other small things we wonít disclose.

Many people commented that they appreciated the measures we took and although initially apprehensive we are now convinced they were appropriate to the situation. The actions planned for this consulta were semi-open actions that others can plug into, but it still makes sense to create a safe space. It is important when planning open actions that we donít isolate ourselves from others.

The FBI: In the days leading up to the consulta the FBI approached a business near the consulta location to ask if a room could be rented for the weekend in order to ďtake picturesĒ of those attending the consulta. They were turned down by the business (YA!), but itís likely they still observed those attending. We must keep in mind that as our movement becomes larger and more effective the state will increase itís efforts to catalogue, intimidate, disrupt, and discredit us.

What didnít work out as intended:

Stack taking: Many have commented there were problems with the way we took stack and weíd have to agree. We had three stacks: one each for those identifying as women, genderqueer, and men. People were able to put themselves on the stack they identified with. The idea was to give equal weight to the three stacks, with priority within each stack given to those who hadnít already spoken. We hoped this would help allow often marginalized voices to be heard. One problem came in the diversity of attendees. 2 people from Pittsburgh were the only ones utilizing the genderqueer stack, there were many more men than women present and trying to speak, and the stack became very weighted to the few women who were repeatedly speaking to the exclusion of men who hadn't previously spoken. Unfortunately, no system is perfect and everyone participating in the discussions seemed to be doing so in good faith.

A corrective measure that may have helped would have been to take 3 people at a time from each stack. This would have lessened the monopolization of the stack while still making sure that women and genderqueer opinions werenít buried by the large number of men present. Stacktackers also could have made more of an effort to pass over people who had repeatedly spoken.
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