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News ::
FTAA Demonstrators Take to the Streets, Met with Police Violence (english)
20 Nov 2003
Philly IMC reporter sends in a dispatch
Philly IMC reporter sends in a dispatch
As top trade officials from 34 nations negotiated the extention of the
"free trade" agreements binding North America to the rest of the continent,
protesters, also in Miami, Florida, took to the streets in a massive display
of opposition to the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) pact. The
demonstrations, ranging from civil disobedience to a large permitted march
organized by the AFL-CIO, were met with police intimidation, unlawful
restriction of the right to protest, and violence.

The demonstrators have come together in opposition to the FTAA for a wide
variety of reasons, although a common thread is that demonstrators believe
that the FTAA is not simply a trade pact but instead is a direct threat
to people throughout the continent: a threat to working conditions, social
and cultural development, the environment, and the ability of countries
throughout the continent to self-govern under the increasing influence of
the American government and corporate interests. There is conflict within
the trade negotiations themselves, as well, as countries like Argentina and
Brazil are pursuing a fair agreement in which America lifts its
agricultral protectionism in return for the concessions the US demands.

Beginning on Wednesday, when 9 people were arrested by undercover officers
while walking down the street, the police began a strategy of random arrests
and confiscation of legal possessions of those who fit what the police believe
to be the demonstrator "profile". During protests today, that tactic expanded
as the police violently apprehended march participants and dragged them behind
police lines. Often these officers were dressed in civilian clothes, or even
dressed as demonstrators. Seven people living in an abandoned house were
arrested, as the police declared that their bicycle tubes were in fact sling
shot weapons, despite no evidence to support that claim.

As the demonstrators gathered in greater numbers on Thursday, the police began
aggressively declaring the demonstration an "unlawful assembly" and assaulting
the participants with physical attack, including hitting them with batons and
bicycles, with chemical weapons, including what seemed to be tear gas, pepper
spray, and an unknown chemical, as well as tazer (electric devices that
cause pain and unconsciousness) and rubber bullet attacks. At 14th and
2nd St., police "ran over a cyclist" according to reports from demonstrators.

Demonstrators challenged commercial media reports that they were attacking
police officers. One woman struck over the head by the police was insistent
that "this was a peaceful demonstration" as she was taken away by medics.

There were many reports of police intimidation, including a report that
some demonstrators were followed by men (apparently police officers) dressed
as protestors (including an anti-FTAA t-shirt) who carried a 9mm pistol on
his lap and told the demonstrators "you don't want to fuck with us."

The police blocked streets, denying the movement of the early morning
march as well as blocking union vans attempting to join the AFL-CIO march
later in the day. Throughout the day, the police have herded demonstrators
into contained areas on the streets, where they then proceeded to demand
the demonstrators disperse, as well as fire tear gas, water cannons, and
physically attack protesters with batons. There are reports of up to 185
buses that have been stopped enroute to Miami, or right outside of Miami, on
their way to peaceably march against the FTAA. While the AFL-CIO has invited
other demonstrators to join their march, the police are demanding identification
at times to enter the amphitheater where they are assembling and speaking.

e-mail:: josh (at)
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