Oregon Pagans in Miami
another story from miami by a member of the pagan cluster
Even in the best of times Miami is a crazy city, sharply divided between rich and poor, public transportation is difficult, and the layout of the city is complicated. During the ministerial of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the city became something out of a nightmare. Police used fear and intimidation prior to the meeting to encourage businesses in the downtown area to close for the week. Warnings of "violent anarchists" were spread to discourage Miami residents from engaging protesters in conversation. The city even passed an ordinance that prohibited groups of seven or more from congregating or moving together in the downtown area. Worst of all, during the days of action, the police were incredibly brutal both in the streets and in the jails.
Yet, despite the overwhelming police brutality and intimidation, the actions in Miami were wildly successful. It is a testament to the power and truth of our message that we were able to reach so many Miami citizens, despite the cultural barriers, despite the campaign of fear. While not very many people joined us in the streets, there was overwhelming support from people we met in stores, as well as in their neighborhoods. Indeed, not only did many Miami residents share their support with us verbally, but many opened their backyards, garages, and homes to protesters escaping from the police riots on Thursday evening.
"No army can hold back a thought, no fence can chain the sea."
Thursday, November 20
The day starts at 7am at Government Center, perhaps as many as 1,000 people are gathered for an early morning march/parade to the fence that surrounds the Intercontinental Hotel. The police presence is large, but they stand back from the edge of the crowd, blocking the entrance to the MetroRail station and standing across the intersection. Marching through downtown Miami is eerie: buildings are boarded up, offices are closed, there are no workers or shoppers. It's like a ghost town. Naturally, folks want to challenge the 9 foot fence, to take down the symbol of the state's attempt to silence us. But here we are singing and dancing through the streets with puppets, drums, flag twirlers, and radical cheerleaders. We are a vibrant, colorful, pageant flowing through the empty streets of downtown. Some of us wonder if we'd be better off marching through the neighborhoods where our audience would be more than the riot cops who are armed and ready to pounce.
And pounce they do. Tear gas, rubber bullets and batons start flying at 10 am. After a brief respite for the labor march and rally, the police begin a brutal round-up that lasts into the night. Protesters are chased through downtown and through neighborhoods. More than 100 people are treated for serious injuries, at least 12 people are sent to the hospital (two of which end up in intensive care), and approximately 150 people are arrested, many of whom continue to be brutalized in jail.
It is telling that in order to meet, the FTAA requires several legions of riot police, a nine foot fence set at a perimeter two or more city blocks away, a local ordinance that prohibits gatherings of seven or more people without a permit, and $8.5 million dollars from the US government to finance a police state. It kind of turns your stomach to hear Police Chief Timoney say that all this armor and para-military personnel is necessary to "protect democracy." It's surreal and it's sickening.
The reality is that the FTAA and the repression we felt in Miami are part of the same system. As Thomas Friedman has said, "there's no McDonalds without McDonald Douglas." The repressive and brutal tactics used in Miami are the direct result of a culture and society that is violent, brutal, and oppressive. Many of us with white-skin privilege felt for the first time what it feels like to be hated because of who you are. The lesson we learned in Miami is that we must all start working together to confront the oppression and violence that permeates our society. Until we do, none of us will be safe and there will be many more Miamis.
"The Earth cannot be sold or bought, all life shall be free"
Friday, November 21st
The morning following the most brutal police riot many of us has ever witnessed is difficult and many hours are spent talking and processing our experiences. This afternoon we have planned a Really, Really Free Market and despite the bruises, the fear, and the trauma everyone wants to move ahead.
At the Really, Really Free Market everything is free: food, massages, we even have trained psychologists and therapists offering healing services for those who were traumatized during the actions the day before. It's a festive, carnival atmosphere, anarchists are playing spin the bottle, witches are dealing in "fairy money" (in which you exchange some money for traits you value in the other person, like their courage or their sense of humor), a woman is offering workshops in banner drops, a young man teaching a group to play the saw, and there's a group of local teenagers demonstrating salsa dancing in exchange for tips on cartwheels. There's a portable composting toilet with a sign "Give a Shit for the Revolution."
It looks and feels like a market bazaar, without the haggling over prices or the need to keep an eye on your wallet. Because everything is free. Cops circle throughout the afternoon on their bicycles, but except for a few vigilant "security" folks, most market-goers ignore them. It's almost as though we've resigned ourselves to whatever the cops will throw at us next. As one of the farmworkers from Root Cause tells us later that night: the violence and repression only serves to strengthen our resolve. It makes our joy and play more vivid and real.
More than anything else, the Really, Really Free Market encapsulates some of the qualities of the world we believe is possible. People sharing their skills and experiences, taking care of each other's needs - material, emotional, and spiritual. By experiencing what is possible, by experiencing a really, really free market, we gain even further understanding of how not-free a world ruled by the WTO, NAFTA, and the FTAA would be.
At 4pm, we start packing up the Really, Really Free Market and prepare to head over to the convergence space for a debrief on yesterday's action and an update from the jail. There are rumors of more arrests, more brutality. There's a sense of urgency, not just because more of our friends may have been arrested, but because our permit to be in this space expires and it is not an easy place to get away from, should the cops close in on us. But there is also a reluctance for the Market to end and a need for some closure, so the pagans bring everyone together for another spiral dance. Our intention is to draw strength from each other, close the space, and send protection to our friends at the jail (both in and out). We wind around each other holding banners of blue cloth (representation of the Living River) wrapped around the group or fluttering in the wind over our heads. It is a moment of true magic, we laugh, we cry, and we hold each other. As we sing and weave our intention into a tangible web of power, we feel the promise of a time and a place where we are all of us free to speak our truth without fear.
"And our hands remember how to spin,
We spin freedom on the rising wind,
We spin the threads of life, the cords of fate,
We spin love into a river that can overcome hate.
We spin justice burning, like a flaming star,
We spin peace into a river that will overrun war,
And if you want to know where true power lies,
Just turn and look into your sisters' eyes...
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