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FTAA legal Press Release

Finally, THe Miami Activist Defense has sent out a press release that mentions the crimes of the governent in Miami

Several groups threaten legal action and call for dropping charges against anti-FTAA protestors

Miami Activist Defense (MAD)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 26, 2003

Kris Hermes, Miami Activist Defense (504) 945-9716
Brenna Bell, Miami Activist Defense attorney (503) 473-3637


Several groups threaten legal action and call for dropping charges against anti-FTAA protestors

Miami, FL - Miami Activist Defense (MAD), the legal support group for those arrested during the Free Trade Area of the Americas protests, joined several other groups today in a press conference to denounce what Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz calls a "model for homeland defense." As Diaz and other city officials congratulated the efforts of police and their so-called level of "restraint," MAD catalogued extensive police abuse and civil rights violations against a public merely attempting to exercise dissent.

"Timoney and Diaz suspended the constitution to achieve their version of 'homeland defense,'" said Brenna Bell, an attorney working with MAD. "This criminalization of dissent was not in response to any act, but in response to a political message that was unfavorable," continued Bell. "The 'criminals' included anyone in the streets of Miami. Journalists, medics, legal observers, union members, senior citizens, and bystanders were all affected by the massive police presence and became victims of harassment, brutality and arrest."

MAD reported a total of 282 arrests over the period from November 11-22. There were dozens of reports of injuries sustained from the vast array of weaponry, which included batons, tear gas, pepper spray, plastic and rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tasers and electric shields. Over thirty people were injured from projectile weapons, five of which suffered head wounds, and at least two people were hospitalized with serious head injuries. MAD reported at least ten beatings of arrestees, seven people held at gunpoint, and at least one person physically assaulted while in jail. There were also four reports of sexual assault while in custody. By all accounts, this "alarming" police behavior was unprovoked, unnecessary and completely uncalled for.

"The pattern and practice of police harassment and terror began with the passage of an unconstitutional ordinance that criminalized otherwise lawful assembly and the possession of common household items," said Kris Hermes of MAD. "This gave police carte blanche to profile and target activists and abuse their rights in a wholesale manner," continued Hermes. "Before, during, and after the FTAA demonstrations, activists were 'hunted' in a way that marked a significant departure from police reaction to political activity in the recent past."

MAD compiled and presented a list of extensive civil rights abuses that included violation of the first, fourth, fifth, and sixth amendments. First amendment violations of free speech and assembly included denial of access for mass numbers of people entering the city as well as joining in an assembly; peaceful assemblies broken up and attacked without warning; regular raids of activist spaces used for political, medical and journalistic activity. Fourth amendment violations of protection from illegal search and seizure included dozens of illegal detentions and unlawful stops and searches with numerous reports of confiscation of possessions as well as destruction of evidence of misconduct. Fifth amendment violations of due process and the right to remain silent included arrests for refusing to answer certain questions; threats of federal detention for refusing to reveal national origin; excessive bail levels; denial of food, water and medical needs while in custody; and numerous reports of sexual and physical abuse. Sixth amendment violations of right to legal counsel included denial of access to attorneys and phone calls.

A number of groups, including the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the AFL-CIO, and the ACLU have indicated that they will be filing civil suits related to the violations. MAD and the NLG are calling for full-scale independent investigations into police misconduct. The United Steel Workers of America (USWA) are calling for a Congressional investigation into "police-state assaults in Miami" and the firing of Police Chief John Timoney. There is also a unified call by several organizations for dropping the charges against anti-FTAA demonstrators.

"Last week, the fundamental rights of thousands of Americans were blatantly violated, sometimes violently, by the Miami police, who systematically repressed our Constitutional right to free assembly with massive force, riot gear and armaments," said Leo W. Gerard, USWA international president, in a letter to Congressional leaders.
Thank You Activists! 26.Nov.2003 14:20


Great to hear about such a rational response to outrageous attacks on Civil rights.