ACT BY THURSDAY--STOP AN UNCONSTITUTIONAL MIAMI ORDINANCE TO BAR FTAA PROTESTS!
this action alert is adapted from public citizen's alert.
>This Thursday, Sept. 25, the Miami City Commission will vote on an
>heinously unconstitutional ordinance which unfairly targets and singles
>our anti-FTAA demonstrators, and proposes to ban the use and possession of a variety of items related to peaceful
protests,demonstrations and protest marches.
>The ordinance, which would take effect when passed and expire on Thursday,
>Nov. 27 (five days after the FTAA Ministerial ends), is clearly and
>deliberately aimed at stifling the voices of the thousands of people -
>students, union members, activists, farmers and many other ndividuals -
>from around the Americas and the world who will be coming to South Florida
>to engage in peaceful, permitted protests at the Free Trade Area of the
>Americas (FTAA) meeting to be held from Nov. 17-21 in Miami.
>Please fax, email or call the Miami City Council Commissioners by
>TOMORROW, THURSDAY MORNING. Feel free to adapt or modify the attached letter. The ACLU and protest leaders have
pointed out that the "proposed ordinance... is so broadly written that it may allow police
>to clamp down on constitutionally protected, peaceful protest activities."
>(Miami Daily Business Review, "As Miami plans to prevent disruptions
>during trade talks, protest groups warn of First Amendment breaches,"
>Sept. 19, 2003)
>The undemocratic nature of this ordinance is in keeping with the
>undemocratic nature of the FTAA itself. Under the rules that would be
>imposed by the FTAA, decision-making power on economic, social and
>cultural policies, as well as national development plans will be
>transferred to transnational corporations and investors and removed
>from local communities.
>It's important that concerned citizens all over the country
>immediately contact Miami city officials to voice their opposition to this
>draconian, unconstitutional measure, which could set a dangerous precedent
>for demonstrations in the future in other places, and could imperil the
>cherished rights of free speech and freedom of assembly.
>Miami officials need to know that the eyes of the world are upon them and
>that their action will be protested rather than allowed to happen quietly.
>Fax the Mayor's office online via the Public Citizen website for free:
>Or use the sample letter below to call and email too while you're at it -
>be polite, succinct and firm:
>Mayor Manuel A. Diaz: email@example.com
>Also call and email the City Commissioners:
>District 1 Commissioner Angel Gonzalez:
>District 2 Commissioner Johnny L. Winton:
>District 3 Commissioner Joe M. Sanchez:
>District 4 Commissioner Tomas P. Regalado:
>District 5 Commissioner Arthur Teele Jr.:
>To: Mayor Manuel A. Diaz and City Council Commissioners
>I urge you and the Miami City Commission to uphold the constitutional
>rights of free speech and assembly by rejecting the proposed parades and
>demonstrations city ordinance, item J-O3-772 on the September 25, 2003
>Miami City Commission agenda, which would add section 6.1 to Chapter 54 of
>the City of Miami municipal code.
>The U.S. Constitution Bill of Rights Amendment I guarantees the right to
>freedom of speech and the right of people peaceably to assemble. The
>proposed ordinance violates fundamental First Amendment rights by defining
>an assembly as any combination of three people, animals or vehicles. This
>works a ridiculous result. Two men playing checkers and a dog could be
>considered an assembly.The proposed rule then imposes on a so-called
"assembly" a series of regulations that are clearly in violation of the
spirit and letter of the right to free speech. The ordinance would outlaw
>commonly used to create puppets, banners and other visuals frequently used
>in peaceful protests. The proposed ordinance will give Miami city police
>officials undue and inappropriate discretionary powers to define what is a
>legal or illegal assembly, thereby granting broad new powers to detain individuals
>and hold them according to these unconstitutional provisions.
>The proposed ordinance includes new limitations on common objects such as
>signs, props and banners which would restrict our ability to express our
>message in a large group setting. Additionally, the inclusion of everyday
>objects such as marbles, water balloons and golf balls and the vagueness
>of some provisions of the ordinance (including the prohibition on solid
>shapes made of rubber, plastic, metal, wood or any similar hard substance)
>leaves it subject to capricious application and enforcement.
>By providing these unconstitutional powers for law
>enforcement, the proposed ordinance fails the fundamental test of
>constitutionality. The Supreme Court requires a "strict scrutiny" of laws
>that seek to limit the First Amendment.
>The notable fact that the ordinance is temporary and set
>to expire on November 27, 2003 (one week after the Free Trade Area of the
>Americas Ministerial) makes clear that it is deliberately and directly
>targeted towards demonstrations activities surrounding the FTAA
>Ministerial and are plainly punitive in nature, and are likely to have a
>chilling effect on people's First Amendment rights to gather, assemble,
>A policy as unconstitutional as this ordinance will undoubtedly face a
>serious court challenge. It will also show Miami to be a city that rejects
democratic process and ideals
>and that seeks to strip individuals of their most fundamental
>constitutional rights. The Constitution should not stop at the Miami
>City line. I urge you to encourage City Commission members to vote against
>the proposed parade and demonstration ordinance as well
>as ask you to veto this unconstitutional ordinance should it be
>Sgd: YOUR NAME
>READ MORE ABOUT THE
>ORDINANCE - Article from Miami press:
>Civil Rights Law and order As Miami plans to prevent disruptions
>during trade talks, protest groups warn of First Amendment breaches
>September 19, 2003 By: Steve Ellman Miami Daily
>Miami hopes to be more successful than
Washington, D.C., was in 1998
>at preventing violence
>Two months before thousands of demonstrators are
expected to descend
>on Miami to protest high-level international
trade talks, civil
>liberties activists and anti-globalization
groups say police are
>interfering with free speech rights.
>Protesters and their attorneys claim police
officials are stalling the
>issuing of permits that would allow rallies and
parades in the
>downtown area to oppose a planning conference
for the Free Trade Area
>of the Americas.
>"Permit requests have languished with the Police
Department for two
>months," said Miami ACLU leader Lida
Rodriguez-Taseff, who has been
>counseling a coalition of environmental and
peace groups that plan to
>protest. "We're getting the runaround."
>The ACLU and protest leaders say that a proposed
ordinance aimed at
>preventing violent protests is so broadly
written that it may allow
>police to clamp down on constitutionally
protected, peaceful protest
>City leaders say the ordinance, which was
approved on first reading
>last week, is aimed at preventing violent
protests such as those at
>the World Trade Organization's 1999 meeting in
Seattle and other, more
>recent international conferences.
>The pressure is on city leaders and police to
provide a peaceful venue
>for the November talks aimed at creating the
Free Trade Area of the
>Americas. The city wants to impress attendees,
because it is in the
>running to be the headquarters of the 34-nation
free-trade zone that
>would stretch from Argentina to Canada.
>Protest leaders say a slide show presented by
Miami police for
>business leaders last week suggested that police
may even consider it
>threatening for protesters to snap photos of
crowd control activities.
>"We're just trying to make a statement," said
South Florida AFL-CIO
>president Fred Frost. "The police are
overzealous about the 2 percent
>of demonstrators they say are violent."
>But Miami Police Maj. Thomas Roell, who will be
tactical commander for
>law enforcement during the FTAA summit, said,
"Law enforcement is just
>trying to strike a balance between the
protesters' rights and the
>trade meeting's rights." He said police "can
work with any group that
>wants to protest in a lawful way."
>State and local leaders want to bolster efforts
to have Miami selected
>as the site of the FTAA's headquarters. They
claim that would bring as
>many as 90,000 jobs and an additional $14
billion annually to the
>And protest groups see the event as a platform
to build on growing
>discontent among U.S. and Latin American workers
coping with an
>Critics of the FTAA argue that creating a
hemispheric free trade zone
>would fuel an international race to the bottom
on wages and
>environmental rules, as nations compete for
>The centerpiece of the meeting is a conference
of 34 trade ministers
>at the Hotel Inter-Continental on Nov. 20-21.
>The protesters' plans include two days of
rallies and marches. A
>national coalition of organized labor
spearheaded by the South Florida
>AFL-CIO is scheduled to rally on Thursday, Nov.
>environmental/peace coalition, organized as the
Welcoming Committee of
>the FTAA, is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 21.
>'Out in the boonies'
>The labor coalition wants to secure a permit for
as many as 30,000
>union members to march down Biscayne Boulevard
>Inter-Continental. But the AFL-CIO's Frost said
Miami police officials
>have proposed an alternate route several blocks
away, along Northwest
>Second Avenue -"out in the boonies," he calls
>Frost said the police proposal would block a
major goal of the protest
>march - getting close enough to the trade
ministers' meeting "so that
>they can see 30,000 working men and women
voicing our concerns."
>He also said the police route was impractical
because of its distance
>from a planned rally and teach-in at the
Bayfront Amphitheater, which
>the union has rented. He said that would make it
difficult for the
>expected large contingent of seniors and
>Frost said his group applied for its permit in
early August, but was
>unable to get a substantive meeting with police
>late last week.
>Rodriguez-Taseff said her clients - who call
themselves the Welcoming
>Committee of the FTAA - were given bogus reasons
for their permit
>delay when they met with police last week. "They
told us they were
>unable to clear our application because they
still hadn't decided on
>street closings and traffic routes for the trade
officials," she said.
>But Rodriguez-Taseff said that claim was belied
by a slide
>presentation police officials made to downtown
business leaders last
>week that included traffic routes.
>"We were lied to," Rodriguez-Taseff said.
>But city officials insist the plans are still
>City Community Relations Board chair Brenda
Shapiro, who is
>facilitating the march permit discussions,
acknowledged that the
>discussions between the police and the protest
>uncomfortable. But she blamed the protesters for
>police by bringing ACLU lawyers with them. "It
was tense because the
>city was misled about who would come," Shapiro
said. "No one's been
>given a permit because this is still the
>Miami Police Maj. Roell said traffic planning
would continue to evolve
>as new march permit applications arrived. Four
permits are currently
>"in process," he said. "There is no cut-off date
for accepting more."
>The various protest groups were scheduled to
meet with police again
>The police presentations to business leaders
last week provide a
>glimpse into attitudes and planning regarding
the FTAA protests.
>It describes three purported types of
demonstrators - one
>"union-based" and "nonviolent," a second
>"anti-establishment," and a third composed of
"fringe elements" that
>are "mostly nonviolent."
>The slide show describes the protests during the
>Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999 - at
which some of the
>demonstrators were involved in riots and looting
- as "the 'model' for
>Police fears are not without any foundation.
Miami New Times has
>reported that some anti-globalization advocates
like the Pittsburgh
>Organizing Group have openly vowed to
"materially disrupt" the FTAA.
>And violence has been a predictable feature at
>gatherings for years.
>But the slide show offers an extremely broad
definition of "protest
>tactics" to watch out for. It includes
protesters pointing out
>plainclothes police officers, providing first
aid supplies to injured
>demonstrators, and taking photographs.
"Protesters create and take
>advantage of negative photo opportunities" is
the caption under a
>photo of a young man focusing a camera.
>Carolina Delgado, a spokeswoman for South
Floridians for Fair Trade
>and Justice, worries that police will see
>demonstrators as a hostile activity and seek to
stop protesters from
>doing so or even restrain or arrest them.
>"Cameras and video are mainly a way to document
our movement," she
>said. "But they also safeguard our interest in
>brutality and protecting our rights."
>Roell responded that police "have no intention
of confiscating cameras
>from anyone with a legitimate reason to have
one. That's not going to
>But Rodriguez-Taseff was unappeased. "This is
the kind of wishy-washy
>language that gets us all in trouble," she said.
"It opens us up to
>the unfettered discretion of the police."
>The proposed revision of the city's public
>raises other free speech concerns, according to
>Calling the proposal "overly broad and
>said the law's expiration date, set just after
the FTAA meetings,
>shows that it is targeted solely at that event's
>violation of their equal protection and due
process rights. If passed
>into law on second reading, she said a court
challenge from ACLU was
>"99 percent certain."
>The proposed ordinance would prohibit
demonstrators from carrying a
>wide range of objects, including golf balls,
batteries and "materials
>or devices that can be thrown or projected that
can or may cause or
>have the potential of causing" personal or
>The attitude of police toward the protesters
could work against the
>FTAA, Rodriguez-Taseff cautioned. "If the FTAA
leaders want a
>successful meeting, they could do better than to
throw down the
>gauntlet," she said.
>Delgado expressed concern that a battle over
civil liberties issues
>could obscure the protesters' larger political
and economic message
>about the dangers of the free trade agreement.
>"We know how important free speech is," Delgado
said. "But we are here
>to talk about the threat to labor and the
environment and democracy."
>Steve Ellman can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or at (561)
add a comment on this article