It is 7:11 PM on Friday. I am in shock at what I saw. I am back in the media center space that is now officially known as Transcendence. every room is filled with people. on laptops and computers and telephones, editing videos of police brutality, or sending press releases via email to the international press, and talking with press. I cannot believe this is the same building that just three months ago before I left for Italy I used to come to everyday and call my office and second home. it has quickly transformed into a full blown political activist media and working center. 24 hours a day people selflessly working to spread the word of human rights. [based on this experience, I have decided to start an organization called the angels network, that does exactly this: provides office and working space and housing to activist groups all over the country when ever and where ever they go to gather or demonstrate in order to defend social or political causes.] I will write fast and furious as I have not written in two days and have seen more in these two days than I can even believe let alone process. So this may or may not make sense. Went to the county jail here in Miami to work the press that was there to remember to spin the story about what this is really about: the people of the America’s against the FTAA, and the growing militarization of America, city by city. my mind is whizzing. I am not thinking clearly. I have not slept in days. No food all day. no one has eaten or slept in days. It is just about the movement. And this particular movement is just one of many movements that are part of the revolution that is happening now. little did we know. but more on that later.
We went to the jail to protest the 150 people who have been arrested so far. their only crime is that they peacefully protested the FTAA meeting yesterday. We show up at the jail. I am with the same group, the mobilization to stop the FTAA media group. We go to the jail and there are about 75 people protesting already. Our group starts holding various press conferences showing plastic bags containing all the tear gas containers and giant beanbag bullets the size of coke cans that the police fired at the protestors during the peaceful permitted demonstrations. The media seems to be on our side throughout this. and yet when you watch the TV, they portray things sometimes as if the protestors are vandals or violent in some way and the police are just there to stop them. of course this couldn’t be further from the truth. The media’s presence is definitely helping to keep the peace though so we are happy to see them following us around wherever we go. It is mid-day. more and more protestors show up. soon the parking lot is full of protestors. the chanting is just “let our people go, let out people go.” or “free the prisoners, not free trade. Free out prisoners not free trade.” and various other political rallying cries. they hadn’t done anything. I was there. I have been embedded with the various groups for four days. And just watched police shoot at us for no reason.
We are scared. But we are strong. No better put, as a sign I saw a girl holding yesterday read, ‘I am sad, but I am not scared.’ Better. Pretty soon we see the streets fill up with about a hundred storm trooper looking guys that are called riot police. But there is no riot going on. Just a lot pf protestors peacefully demonstrating. All of a sudden I find myself as one of three people directly negotiating with the police sergeant of the riot squad on behalf of all of us who are protesting. I don’t look anything like a protestor so I think the police find it easy to talk to me. I am with the Archer from the media team I am working directly with (she is a transgender—more on that later—but I think this means that she used to be a he, but is now a she—but regardless of that, she is very brave and calm) and there is another girl with us we will call Sinead who is an attorney from Oregon and who is part of a group of people known as ‘legal observers’—their job is to go to these social activist events and to just observe from a legal standpoint, watching for violations of civil liberties, and then later to work on teams to get people out of jail and to defend them. so now we are acting as a liaison between the people and the police. Pretty soon we are surrounded by these one hundred men dressed in black riot gear. Shin and knee pads, helmets and facemasks, big plastic shields, bullet proof vests, guns, and batons, etc. it is a scary site. but I am not scared. But I keep telling myself that I should be scared.
Lots of negotiations. A few interviews here and there with several people from the press. It is nonstop chaos and the protestors chant and the police get closer and closer to us beating their batons on their shields to intimidate. we go back and forth between the police and the other hundreds of protestors passing messages. Part of me wants to just join the crowd and chant and jump up and down and yell at the riot police. They are literally ten feet from us now. you cannot even see their faces because they are covered by helmets and masks. They are ready to beat us all to death and you can feel it. but instead of joining the group I somehow manage to stay part of the negotiating team instead. So I am able to cross “the line” that has been set up that we are unable to cross. In between us the protestors and the riot police are all the press people. I go back and forth between all the different groups communicating different messages. So we tell the police look we cannot speak for these people. we will tell them what you say and they will decide from themselves what they want to do. then he mumbles something about we better be successful because he cannot stop any violence if anyone gets out of line.
I am too tired now to write but I will keep going. so all the groups sit down—-this was amazing to me, to meet and to decide what the demands were of the police and the jail from all the different groups. This is something you have to understand. Not all the protestors are one big group but rather many many small groups who have come together from all over the country for a group of causes they all believe in. Some people are here for labor, some for animal rights, some for the environment, but almost everyone is here through a common desire to fight for people’s rights, for democracy, to fight globalization, and to fight the police state that America is turning into, and to defend civil liberties and human rights of Americans and people all over the world.
[Just got off the phone with a reporter from channel 4, CBS. He was there today. saw it. they all saw it today. we are making more and more media contacts. They tell us they are on our side. They saw the police brutality. They call us constantly. They tell us that there is a conspiracy high up in the media here in Miami, that much of what they film and write and photograph about what is really happening is getting left on the cutting room floor and all these other more police biased and city biased stories keep getting written instead. They are actually apologizing to us for not being able to get more of the truth out to the people as they are calling in here to the media center. could this be true? this is like the fucking movies. o.k. on with the story.]
So I sit down for a minute on the curb and look at the row of riot police staring at me. I thought to myself, what the hell am I doing in all of this mess? This is just a funny memory: my cell phone rings. It’s a lady from the Florida grand opera association. I can barely hear her. There are hundreds of people chanting all around me, and there are police beating their batons on their shields like wild dogs. This lady tells me that she needs my credit card number in order to charge $1.50 to process my request to change my tickets for tonight’s opera to another date. I scream over the noise to her very quickly that it won’t be possible, that I am about to be trampled and clubbed by hundreds of riot police. I swear to God that she starts arguing with me and telling me that I need to take out my credit card and read it to her over the phone so she can charge a dollar fifty. I know. Its hilarious. But a true story.
Minutes later I get up and go back to the Archer who is talking to the sergeant. We are told by the police captain that we have two minutes to make our announcement to the group that we have fifteen minutes to disperse. Many journalists got this on tape. We went and told the large group of protestors the message, that we had fifteen minutes to disperse. Within about sixty seconds the large group of riot police started moving towards us. we looked behind us and it looked like something out of star wars. Hundreds of these storm troopers marching towards us. we were standing with the crowd shouting to everyone with a bullhorn. “what the fuck is going on?” we yell to each other. “they told us we had fifteen minutes to disperse! What the hell are they doing? They’re moving in on us now!!!!” “I don’t know but lets just go now you guys! C’mon!” another guy and I and the Archer started running in the opposite direction of the rest of the protestors. Thank God or else I wouldn’t be writing this right now probably. we actually ran right towards another whole group of riot police who started moving in. We flanked them. But I knew that if we flanked them sideways rather than run away from them directly we would get away. I was right. we got away to hide behind one of the media vans. The rest of the protestors were not so lucky. They were soon surrounded and trampled upon by the riot squad. About a hundred of them were attacked in all. they were held down, pepper sprayed in the face, beaten with clubs and then handcuffed. And they were actually running away. it was for no reason. Luckily all the vans of media captured this on tape. pretty soon the entire event was being reported on live TV. The reporters were in just as much as shock as the rest of us were as they reported what they just saw. We did some interviews and then left to join our team.
A reporter from channel 7 announced on live television that this was just like the protests against the Vietnam war and for civil rights with martin Luther king in the sixties. That he couldn’t believe what he was seeing here. that a new war was starting and we were witnessing it right here on live TV in Miami as an example of it. He was a brave reporter. When he stepped down I shook his hand and thanked him for being so brave and telling it like it was. He had madness in his eyes. “You fucking kidding me? Look, we know damn well that most of what we try to report is going to end up on the floor of this van. Decisions made by powers way above even our own network station managers. But when we go live like that, that’s what we live for. There’s no lying in live TV. Everyone in Miami who was watching just saw those riot police attack those innocent kids. That’s a fact. And we got it on live television…” I walked away so impressed by this guy. he was hardcore old school journalist style guy.
In the sun sentinel today the police chief actually announced his intention to “arrest as many people as we can.” He has continued to lie day after day to the papers and TV. Check this out from Wired magazine. This is a reporter we know: http://wireservice.wired.com/wired/story.asp?section=Breaking&storyId=801074&tw=wn_wire_story but I’ll tell you, I was there. this police chief Timoney wasn’t even there, so he has no right reporting on what happened. Its just made up. This is one of the first times that I actually see right in my own universe an example of someone in power like this police chief just totally lying to everyone. You see this in the movies and on TV. You don’t realize that it really happens in our day to day lives here in America. But I’m seeing that it does. People in control lie. And they do it a lot. A lot of the TV reporters tell me this over the last few days. They tell me that it is the way the game is played. It is a constant battle to get any amount of truth out of them. I am shocked at the news and I am shocked by who I am hearing it from.
We come back to the media space. People are in a controlled panic. Everyone trying to focus on getting a count of all the missing people and figure out who was beaten up, who is in the hospital, and who was arrested.
People are in different rooms with video cameras and TV monitors or on the phone or on the Internet. I am asked to go on live TV and talk about what I witnessed. I agree but I sneak away to a restaurant next door to prepare myself with one of the secret weapons of rock and roll. They recognize me. “Hey fishy how are you!” they ask me jovially. “Oh I’m alright. How are you all doing?” I answer not wanting to go into any details of the day. “do you have any alcohol?” I ask casually. “Beer or wine?” they say. “No. I mean do you have any alcohol!?” I say again. “Only the owner’s private stock of vodka here” and they pull out a bottle from a cabinet and show it to me. “Give me two of them please.” I say and quickly slammed down two large glasses of vodka on the rocks. O.k. that’s better. I calmed down. Now lets go talk to the cameras.