Has Miami Lost Its Marbles?
Miami is trying to pass an unconstitutional ordinance for the upcoming FTAA protests, read about the ordinance and what you can do to help!
Has Miami Lost Its Marbles?
By Kirsten Anderberg
The Miami City Commission is currently trying to pass a "parade and demonstrations" ordinance, Item J-03-772, that will be valid once passed, until November 27, 2003. This ordinance is being proposed, due to the protests that will come with the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) meeting in Miami, November 17 - 21, 2003. Throughout the text of the proposed ordinance is a litany of free speech and Constitutional rights rhetoric, yet it is pure rhetoric, since everything the ordinance stands for directly conflicts with the rights it proclaims to take into account. There is a sincere conflict between the semantics of what the text is saying and the reality of what it is proposing.
This ordinance proposal was supposed to be voted upon by Miami City Commissioners, on Sept. 25, 2003, yet there was a flood of protest from the public, as well as watchdog groups such as the ACLU. Now the proposal is tabled for the next Commissioners' meeting in the beginning of October, and revisions will supposedly take place between now and then. Thus, it is CRUCIAL that people call and email these Commissioners to stop this ordinance from becoming yet another bit of precedence against free speech in America. Activists fear Miami is stalling regarding the passage of this ordinance, until the last hour, to just slide it through.
The ordinance text says that current laws on this topic are 20 years old, an dneed revamping. It argues the ordinance is borne of necessity, since civil unrest and disturbance have occurred at events in many cities, and "it appears that potential exists for civil disturbance and unrest during certain upcoming events." The text goes on to say the ordinance was needed to "ensure the safety and well-being of individuals and property, while ensuring the First Amendment rights of those wishing to associate, and to express their views, both individually and collectively," and "in a robust, vigorous manner." It says that, but the reconciliation of the First Amendment rights appears fictional, at best! The text cites court cases in Los Angeles, Coeur D'Alene, and Menlo Park, where cities won the rights to regulate the "size, nature, and shape of sign handles." So they want to regulate the nature of protests and say that is freedom? That is crazy! Based on these cited court decisions, and the "time, place and manner" restrictions that are used routinely to harass street performers and poltical activists alike, Miami is claiming a right to enact restrictions on the "types of materials that those participating in parades, demonstrations, rallies and assemblies may have in their possession." These materials are regulated based on the concept they could be used as weapons and to inflict personal and property damage, or to provide protection by preventing permitted law enforcement controls related to those participating in the use of such weapons... " The text says there is no Constitutional protection for objects intended to inflict personal and property damage, thus regulation of these items is "prophylactic," reasonable and appropriate.
The proposed ordinance text goes on to describe "parade" as a legal term used to include "marches, demonstrations... having a common purpose... upon any public place... " The term "assembly" is defined as any "meeting, demonstration, picket line, rally, gathering, or group of three (3) or more persons... having a common purpose... upon any public place, which assembly substantially inhibits the usual flow... of travel... " So now we know who this ordinance is aimed at, protesters. So what is up with the frilly language of "parades?" Was there a reason they did not call them "protests," since this clearly does not apply to local parades of the normal definition? That is like the current trend to try to make beauty pageants more palatable by calling them "Women's Scholarship Programs."
So at these "parades," aka demonstrations, the obvious "probable" weaponry would be banned, such as guns, metal knuckles, slingshots, baseball bats, crowbars, axes, chains, hammers, shovels, and "bludgeon... .." But then it gets weird. It then says no sign shall be thicker than ¼ inch! All wood would have to be less than ¼ inch by ¾ inch in thickness, and both ends of the wood must be blunt and not pointed. No one can carry "any length of metal, plastic or hard material." (This section is particularly fuzzy and open for interpretation). Glass bottles, jars and containers of "any kind" are not allowed. Would this include small bottles of medical supplies carried in by action medics? Balloons filled with anything other than oxygen, helium or air, such as water, paint, etc. are banned. They would like to ban possession of marbles, golf balls, batteries, as potentials for causing damage as projectiles. Also banned would be the possession of bricks, rocks, and spray paint cans. The text says "It shall be unlawful for any person to carry, possess or wear any gas mask or similar device designed to filter all air breathed and that would protect the respiratory tract and face against irritating, noxious or poisonous gases." Would that include a bandanna? Then it continues to degrade... no one can wear or possess a bulletproof vest or any "other improvised body armor." Improvised body armor is defined as gear "worn for the purpose of enabling the wearer to engage, or attempt to engage, in unlawful activity." So, in essence, the police want to outlaw anything that would protect the average citizen from outrageous police brutality and weaponry! Basically, all the things they are accusing protesters of potentially doing, they are saying the police WILL do, and they want to ban citizens from protecting themselves in their own words! The proposed ordinance calls for the revocation of all ordinances, and parts therein, that are inconsistent with this new ordinance.
Part of the controversy is around a video presentation to the business community, made by the City, regarding the upcoming FTAA meetings. It defined protesters as belonging to three groups, 1)union-based and nonviolent, 2)anti-government, anti-establishment, and 3)fringe elements that are mostly nonviolent. The video showed footage of the Seattle WTO riots, calling it a model for future demonstrations. The video pointed out activist behaviors to watch out for, such as protesters pointing out plain-clothed cops, providing first aid supplies to injured protesters and taking pictures of negative circumstances. Due to this presentation, activist groups representing action medics, as well as independent media, as well as civil rights watchdogs, are enraged and reacting strongly. Even more disturbing was the reaction of Miami police officer Maj. Roell. He said the police have "no intention of confiscating cameras from anyone with a legitimate reason to have one." Again, legitimate is a MAJOR issue here. I would say ANYONE at a protest with a camera has a legitimate reason to have one! For more information on the upcoming FTAA actions and Miami's reactions to protest, visit www.tradewatch.org.
If indeed this ordinance is passed, I must recommend street theater tactics. If no improvised armor is allowed, just come as Santa Claus. Santa intends no harm to anyone, is fat, and looks bad being beaten on the news. Or how about you come after a football practice, and just do not change out of uniform before heading off to the protest? With padding, helmets, etc. Or perhaps dressing as pregnant women could work. Padding, and again, beating pregnant women on the news is bad. People could also come in Burqas and traditional veils, it is religious freedom, and it covers the face. Get creative!
Please take a moment to e-mail Miami officials and tell them you're contacting them to express your opposition to this ordinance which strips away free speech rights in America.
MIAMI CITY OFFICIALS CONTACT INFORMATION
Mayor Manuel A. Diaz:
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.:
City Manager Joe Arriola:
City Attorney Alejandro Vilarello:
Copyright 2003 Kirsten Anderberg
address: Seattle, Wa
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