AUDIO FILE: Miami Report Back
On December 7, 2003 at the Portland First Unitarian Church members of the community gathered to witness a multi media report back from the Free Trade of the Americas protests in Miami Florida which took place in late November. These are audio files from those who were in Miami and reported their experiences.
On December 7, 2003 at the Portland First Unitarian Church members of the community gathered to witness a multi media report back from the Free Trade of the Americas protests in Miami Florida which took place in late November.|
The program was introduced by Kate Lore, Social Justice Director of the First Unitarian Church, who, along with many other members of her congregation, were in Miami. The program began with an overview of the FTAA and the significance of what happened behind the closed doors in Miami by Barbara Dudley. Following Barbara, six people who were in Miami addressed different aspects of the Convergence: a lawyer, Brenna Bell talked about the arrests, the police abuse and disregard for civil rights; Chris Ferlazo of Cross Border Labor Organizing Coalition spoke about the labor organizing; Will Levin and Djen Whitney spoke about the direct actions; M2, of Portland Indymedia and Bette Lee, an independent photographer and journalist, spoke about media perspectives.
Following an 11 minute slide show and 2 minute excerpt from a 1 hour indymedia rough cut video, three people spoke briefly about where to go from here. At this point people either broke into groups for spontaneous discussions, or watched the 1 hour Indymedia rough cut video of the Convergence.
This a 1 hour and 6 minute audio file of those presentations.
Miami Report Back
To facilitate the understanding of this material, I've broken the talks up into individual audio files for each speaker, beginning with the introduction by Kate Lore and overview by Barbara Dudley, who began by stating that what happened behind the closed doors with the FTAA negotiations in Miami really began last month in Cancun Mexico, and even further back in Seattle in late 1999. "What happened was the developing countries found their footing. It started in Seattle......and what was going on in that meeting was that the developing countries were refusing to go along with the green room meetings, the undemocratic nature of the negotiations, and were really starting to say no to a number of aspects of what the US and the European Union were putting forward in the negotiations."
This trend continued through the meetings in Dohar, Cancun, and finally through the FTAA Meetings in Miami. Barbara continues with her analysis for about a total of 12 minutes.
Introduction and Overview
Next to speak was Brenna Bell, a lawyer working with the Miami Activist Legal Defense, the group that did much of the legal organizing for the Convergence, as well as defending those who were arrested and also will be pursuing a multitude of civil suits resulting from police use of excessive force before and during the protest. She speaks from personal experience, as she herself was attacked and arrested.
"The main thing that people are coming away from Miami with is a sense of complete and utter repression...........the people who got arrested weren't just some Black Block kids who tried to take down the fence.......people were getting arrested everywhere. If you were in Miami and you were downtown, you were a target. The way that the police chief John Timoney, who was also responsibile for the amazing respression at the Republican National Convention in 2000, the way that he described it was that "they were hawks picking mice off of fields.' And that's what it felt like."
Brenna continues her presentation for a total of 10 minutes, about police violence and disregard for civil rights and civil liberties.
Following Brenna is Chris Ferlazo with the Portland Cross Border Labor Organizing Committee. Before Kate introduced Chris, she commented on how she "was clearly marked as a church lady,", as were other Unitarians, some of the younger who were shot with rubber bullets and one arrested. Following this Chris spoke to some of the coalition building in Miami. He attests to the fact that Miami witnessed some amazing advances in this area.
"In Miami we saw some of the most sophisticated efforts ever to divide us in our coalition work." Efforts were made to paint a picture of good protestors and bad proestors, seeking to divide loyalties and create dissention.
Chris then read some quotes from after the protests. One was from Tony Fonsetta, president of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, which is mostly retired union activists. Tony complains that, "thirteen of the buses he helped organize were turned away and many of the others were diverted, forcing senior citizens to walk up to two miles to attend the permanant rally.....and only 5 out of 25 buses were actually able to get in to pick people up at the end of the day."
Chris continues for a total of about 13 minutes.
Next, two speakers talked about the Direct Action hat took place during the Convergence. First was Will Levin, who was in Miami for 17 days, before and after the main day of action. "To me Direct Action is much more than just storming barricades, although that is an important part of it....direct action to me means coming in to a town and not just breezing in, doing our thing and then leaving, but working on outreach. In Miami, for example, there was a trememdous campaign by the police, a propaganca fear campaign, that was very effective." Storeowners in the business corridor were showed video footage of Seattle and told the protestors were going to break windows and burn their shops down. People were afraid. "And many of us spent a great deal of time literally going from door to door with a flyer in both Spanish and English....Great pains were taken to reassure the community of the intentions of the protest and encourage the business owners to remain open.....People were overwelmingly supportive, I would say, of us being there."
Will continues for a total of about 5 1/2 minutes, giving many other examples of ways in which the visiting protestors reached out to support and reassure the local communities.
Following Will talking about the many facets of Direct Action, Djen Whitney spoke for three minutes or so about where, in her opinion, the movement needs to think about going from here.
"I really believe that the idea of Direct Action, the idea of taking what we want, demanding it, rather than asking and petitioning for it, is crucial and incredibley empowering." She quotes an IWW slogan that "Direct Action gets the goods," and feels that perhaps we've lost sight of what those goods are. She says that Direct Action is a philosophy and not merely a tactic.
"I feel that our actions are becoming more spectacular and more symbolic and less goal oriented, and I really want to win this battle, this struggle, and I don't think that's possible if we don't start thinking and asking more questions."
Next came two speakers from the independent media. First was m2 of Portland Independent Media Center, who began his remarks by giving a brief synopsis of what Indymedia is as a global network, and then some personal experiences in Miami about the repression of free speech and freedom of the press.
"This was a well orchestrated, extremely coordinated media blockout and corporate media controled." He says that this was the most oppresive police state environment he'd ever witnessed. Police deliberately discrimated against the independent media, singling them out for abuse and arrest, especially, it seems, members of the Indymedia collectives. "They make a clear distinction between the media that is controlled and controlable-we call it the corporate whore press,....and the media that is free and open and trying to get the word out about what's going on to the people."
Next Bette Lee, independent photographer and journalist, read a prepared statement. "....There's nothing new about the Miami model police state tactics that the police haven't used before against us. But it's already being sold with a hefty price tag to other cities....ask any African American in Miami or any American city and they will tell you that their civil rights are violated daily by the cops.....what happened in Miami was that the illusion was shattered, and we saw the guns and the fist pointed at our head, openly."
"The police are the instrument of class power, and they have been used as a very effective means of social control throughout history. Whenever the interests of the ruling elite are threatened, we can be sure that the police will be used to repress us, and to hell with our constitutional rights. History is full of accounts of attacks by police and armed forces against workers, the poor, people of color, immigrants and protestors."
Bette Lee's commentary was a penetrating analysis of state repression, not just here or there, but everywhere. Among other activities, Bette writes for the local The Portland Alliance
Following an eleven minute slide show and two minute video collage of the Convergence, three people spoke briefly on some strategies on where to go from here.
Lynn-Marie Crider, of
Oregon AFL-CIO, spoke almost four minutes. SAhe began by saying how encouraging it is that the developing nations are working so successfully to overcome the dominance of the developed nations. "But, we can't rely on the developing world to do our fight for us.First of all, it's not fair." She goes on to say that these developing countries, China, Brazil, etc. are goig to be coming under tremendous pressure, externally from the E.U. and the U.S., but also internally, "because in each of these countries there is going to be some sectors that are going to want particular things, like the various agricultural interests in Brazil.....It seems to me that we have to figure out how we are going to carry on the fight here"
Second to speak was Brush, who first offered what he and many others learned from both the Cancun and Miami Convergence. "This is a struggle about the future of the planet and about our future as human beings and our relationship with the world. Irt's a struggle about an empire that has to collapse, and is in many ways already collapsing. But if something's really going to happen, it's because we, as a multitude of people and of movements have come together to create something different."
A brief, under 3 minutes, but clear, poignant analysis of what those living in the developed nations must do to establish a world Democracy.
Last to speak was Djen Whitney, who also addressed this subject in her earlier remarks. She says that she had helped organize for 7 months before the Seattle protests, and that since then many have told her that this success "could never happen again because we've lost the element of surprise, as if that's the only thing we had going for us in Seattle.....we organized, we were in the universities, the community colleges, the high schools the workplaces, the neighborhoods....the other thing we were doing was innovating. To innovate you need to think, you need to ask questions."
Many have been saying that Another World is Possible, and organizing around this theme. To be sure, there is a better way than the many being ruled by the few, whether these few be priests, kings and aristocrats, or generals, as the case has been throughout history. Today we have a corporate aristocracy slowing emerging upon the world scene seeking to reduce the everyday life of all people to consumerism-to appetites deliberately enflamed and impossible to satisfy. In grasping to increase the bottom line of profit, no notice is taken of our relationship to Nature, to each other, or even to ourselves.
Yet, another World is Emerging, chronicaled by events in Seattle, Chiapas, Quebec, Genoa, Bolivia, Cancun, Miami, and countless other places where the people have stood up in the face of violent oppression and demanded that their voice be heard, their existance acknowledged and their rights as human beings protected. People have spoke up for the Earth, for the workers, for local sovereignty, for the spiritual values of brotherhood and equality which are at the heart of all Spiritual Paths and of Democracy itself.
Indeed, Another World is Emerging, right alongside the world of Free Trade, corrupt capitalism, and the drive to dominate and enslave. But no, rather, this Will to Democracy is rising up through the corruption and ignorance, demanding that the human reality is much deeper than how we feed, shelter and cloth ourselves. The human reality is respect for one another, reverence for life and for the Earth, and recognition of inherent spiritual values that superceed values founded in nationalities and trade.
This tradition is deep amongst traditional indigenous people. They have much to teach, and we of the developed nations have at least as much to learn as we have to teach. Mitakwe Oasin, all my relations, from the Lakota Sioux; Namaste, we are one, from Nepal. Both attest to a truth and a perception lacking in priests, aristocrats and generals, as they seek to work their personal will upon the People.
As this value arises through the greed, the racism, the mace and percussion grenades and tear gas, it will slowly warm the cold heart of those who consider always first their own comfort and habitually disregard the basic dignity of others. Another World is Possible.
Another World is Emerging.
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