Urgent Action and Summary of Police Brutality at FTAA Protests
This week thousands of protestors came to Miami to oppose The Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), an international trade agreement that aims to expand and extend corporate power throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Prior to the mass action there was a calculated campaign to intimidate protestors and legitimize forthcoming acts of violence against them, including outrageous city ordinances prohibiting ?materials or substances that are capable of being thrown,? unmerited harassment and detainment and repeated statements published in the local press vilifying the demonstrators and their political beliefs. The excessive show of state force, backed by $8.5 million in US Government funding as part of the recent Iraq spending bill, demonstrated the Bush administration?s support of these tactics and encouraged Miami Police Commissioner John Timoney to orchestrate a massive, paramilitary assault on our constitutional and human rights.
At approximately 4:20 pm on November 20, as union members, students, human rights and economic justice activists, religious leaders and other concerned citizens meandered in the open space in front of the permitted rally, they were attacked without warning in a violent display of police brutality. Police officers dressed in riot gear used batons, wooden poles, concussion grenades, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber, wooden, and plastic bullets and other chemical agents against the protestors indiscriminantly.
As many of the protestors fled the scene and helped each other out of harm?s way, one officer targeted the ?Wellness Center,? a free clinic ran by volunteer doctors. As medics ran to close the door to the harmful gas permeating the air outside, one policeman purposefully sprayed pepper spray directly into the building, contaminating the space.
According to Eowyn Rieke, MD and family physician, the ?cops [were] completely out of control and in total disregard for the safety and well being of health care workers and the patients they [were] treating.?
Rieke reported that the center treated over 125 for injuries that day, among them serious facial lacerations, bone fractures, head wounds and exposure to chemical ailments. Twelve were hospitalized. ?I?m a MD,? she said, ?and I?ve worked in emergency rooms, but this is really the worst onslaught of injuries I have ever seen.? Another volunteer medic identified only as Daniel, said ?instead of swinging below the knees so as to demobilize the protestors, police were deliberately hitting their heads.? Daniel, who was among the crowd, but wearing clear insignia to identify himself as a medic, was himself shot no less than twenty times by rubber bullets. Some of the bullets contained chemical irritants that continued to burn his skin into the evening.
At least 150 arrests were made during the attack, and other demonstrators were targeted later that evening. Chief of Police Timoney was quoted the following day in the Miami Herald saying, ?I thought the officers showed remarkable restraint.?
A group of approximately 300 people gathered outside of the jail in a peaceful protest the following afternoon to demand the liberation of the prisoners. When the police arrived, guns in hand, the protestors turned their backs to them in a display of non-violence. They were told by a Miami-Dade police sargeant that they had three minutes to disperse. Although some chanted ?we are dispersing? as they attempted to exit the area, police chased them in another unecessary show of force.
Approximately 60 more arrests were made. In total, over 250 arrests are estimated.
We are now receiving reports from people being released or calling from jail that there are cases of excessive brutality, sexual assault and torture inside. People of color, queer and transgender prisoners are particularly being targeted. Many are being subject to cavity searches. At least one Latino man is currently in Intensive Care for an injury he received after being beaten in the head by an arresting officer. One woman claims that while being processed, four male officers dressed in biohazard suits cut off all of her clothing.
People have also been denied access to attorneys, visitation rights, vegetarian or vegan food, and access to essential medication and medical attention. The state-sponsored violence and exaggerated police presence in Miami this week is consistent with the FTAA?s history of attempting to forcefully silence dissent in Buenos Aires, Quebec, Sao Paulo and Bolivia in 2001, where two protestors were killed during an anti-FTAA demonstration.
November 2003 will go down in history as the day the US proved that
it is willing to resort to the same policies of violent repression of dissent that it has supported for decades throughout the global south. Whether it will mark an embarrassing isolated tragedy or a turning point in how the US government relates to its citizenry depends on how civil society responds right now to this outrageous and blatant violation of their constitutional and human rights.
Note: as of this mailing, at 3 pm on Sunday, Nov. 23, it has been reported that all prisoners with misdemeanors are being released.
Also, you can access prisoner information at www.piersystem.com/external/index.cfm?cid=647&fuseaction=External
TAKE ACTION NOW TO PROTECT OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS!!
1) Call, fax, email elected officials with the demands listed below.
2) Money is urgently needed to get people out of jail. They are making everyone post between $100 - $5000. Send money to cover legal and jail-support expenses to: United for Peace and Justice. Online donations are possible at www.unitedforpeace.org/ftaadonate, or you can mail a check or money order to: United for Peace and Justice/FTAA Fund P.O. Box 607, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108. Please specify Legal Fund in the memo field:
3) Global Day of Action on Monday at any time and any appropriate location (e.g., US Embassies, Departments of Justice, FBI offices..).
THESE ARE OUR DEMANDS:
Drop all charges.
Release all political prisoners.
Meet basic human needs: no more brutality, provide appropriate food, access to medicine and medical attention, warm clothing.
Provide access to attorneys and visitation rights.
Provide equitable treatment to all prisoners.
Do not share information collected with the INS.
Fire Chief Timoney
To send a free fax: http://www.citizen.org/fax/background.cfm?ID=245&source=19
PLEASE CALL AND WRITE:
ALEX PENELAS, Mayor, Miami-Dade County 305.829.9336 home
Chief of Staff: Francois Illas Fillas@ci.miami.fl.us
KATHERINE FERNANDEZ RUNDLE, State Attorney, 305.547.0100
JOHN TIMONEY, Chief of Police 305-673-7925, 305-579-6565
Please distribute this information. This information was compiled by Rights Action.