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News ::
FTAA-IMC Miami - November 16th, 2003
18 Nov 2003
Modified: 01:36:13 AM
The "bling bling" of success can be attractive, but the harsh realism of poverty, underfunded education, lack of health care, continued environmental degredation, and the plethora of other problems that this society is facing, do not legitimize an excess, frivolous use of money. Miami seems to be the perfect place for this conflict to be brought to light
written November 17th, 2003 8:41am

Here's the news from Miami:

On Sunday, Robert and I arrived at the IMC bright and early (around 9:30am). It takes us about 45 minutes to get to the IMC space, because a public transportation system is practically non-existant in this city. To get to the IMC Center/Convergence Space, we walk about 19 blocks from the closest Metro-stop (starting today, they have shut down that public transit system and we must walk an additional 10 or so blocks to reach the IMC). The neighborhoods that we travel through in this daily morning/evening commute create a horrible narrative on the City of Miami.

Coconut Grove is for tourists, and for other people who have money. It's full of night clubs and restaurants and designer clothing stores. Classy neon signs, menu's items in the double digits, and live music are everywhere. The streets are still busy after midnight, and the "bling bling" of money (in *this* society) is everywhere. Our commute takes us directly through the "Grove", and the contrast with the rest of our path is terrifying.

The Metrorail, the intermediate stage of the trip, is pretty straight forward. Prices are $1.25 each way, the same price that the Boston Metro is planning to change their fare to. Downtown is like Downtown, with storefronts, deli counters and skyscrapers, and a slightly larger number of luggage stores.

It's the streets just north of downtown that are so different from Coconut Grove.
We walk down N. Miami Blvd, a street that meets the numbered Streets (1st, 2nd, etc) in the middle of downtown and travels (gosh!) north. N. Miami Blvd becomes run-down and frighteningly dangerous after it crosses the 6th St. boundary. Men and women sleep in the street, the smell of urine and human waste is a constant, and the buildings are all fenced, gated, guarded or boarded up.

The first few times we walked this street, it was relatively quiet. On Sunday morning, when a local church distributes food near the intersection of N. Miami and 11th St., the street was still silent, but filled with people. That same afternoon, as we were heading towards downtown, to get footage of the fence that is being constructed around the FTAA Conference location, a homeless woman approached us in the afternoon and described her living situation.

A native of Chicago who wished to remain anonymous, the woman described herself as homeless and living on the streets with her fully-grown, mentally retarded son. She had stopped us to ask if we were protesters for the FTAA, and she told us that if we were, we should be careful, and that what we were protesting was the right thing to do. She went on to describe violent, racist and sexually explicit encounters that she has experienced from the local police. Her story, and her well-wishes, helped to illustrate the differences between where we were and where we are going.

Downtown, the streets and storefronts were still open. Police were everywhere, and the game that Robert and I were playing, "Count the Authorities" became difficult after we hit 60. The fence around the Inter-Continental Hotel, where the FTAA Conference is taking place at the end of the week, was still under construction. Tractor trailers were still unloading the materials needed to complete the project, and only a few small segments of fenceline needed to be filled to seal the hotel off from the rest of the city, and the world.

The FTAA is a threat to democratic process. If the Free Trade Area of the Americas treaty is passed, corporations will be able to sue governments to overturn local environmental, health and safety, and worker protection laws that they view as obstacles to profit. Not only is the FTAA an idea created by corporations, the benefits of the FTAA will be for corporations only. NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, has already proven to be a disaster for human rights and ecological integrity - the FTAA, a similar treaty that places Corporate interests above all else, is another step in the process of undermining environmental protection and hurting the common people.

As Robert and I shot our footage, spoke with the locals, watched, listened, and learned from the people that have met since we arrived, we discussed the contrast between these conflictive realities. "Bling bling" sure can be attractive, but the harsh realism of poverty, underfunded education, lack of health care, continued environmental degredation, and the plethora of other problems that this society is facing, do not legitimize an excess, frivolous use of money. Miami seems to be the perfect place for this conflict to be brought to light. With such a contrast between the rich and the poor, with such close proximity to the islands that it is described by some as the "Northernmost Latino city", Miami is the perfect location to declare the fate of the FTAA.

A minimally decent life is the least that can be done for the individual, and corporate interests look the other way.
That's why we're down here. That's why the IMC covers these topics, and these types of events. Corporate power extends to the mainstream media, and alternatives to their bias are integral to forming rational informed opinions, and decisions about the way we live our lives. We offer our view, and the viewpoints of others, in a democratic way, with a democratic process.

This event is an excercise in political protest. Some people refuse to pay their taxes out of protest, some people boycott the Corporate franchise, some people, like many making the trek to Miami, make puppets or wear gas masks to get as close to the decision makers as possible, to let their voice be heard.

Obviously, in this culture, money speaks.
Maybe it should work some other way.

S.
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