Miami Protests against FTAA Report from Starhawk - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 12-09-2003, 12:00 PM
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This is tremendously inspiring, but also very long Worth a read.

Miami: A Dangerous Victory

By Starhawk

For those of us who participated in the protests against the FTAA, the

Free Trade Area of the Americas, in Miami the third week in November,

its a bit hard to feel victorious. We are bruised, battered, worried

about companeros still in jail, and grieving for the Jordan Feder, a

young medic who died of meningitis after the action. Weve been

harassed, arrested, tear gassed, pepper sprayed, hit, beaten, assaulted,

lied about, and in some cases literally tortured and sexually assaulted

in jail, and weve stared directly into the naked red gaze of the New

American Fascism.

Nevertheless we have had a significant victory that we need to

understand and recognize, not least because it throws us into a new and

very dangerous phase of activism.

Our victory was not tactical. None of our own attempts to physically

enter or disrupt the conference were very effective. Ive heard rumors

that one group did actually take down a section of fence, but most of us

just managed to march up to it and maintain a presence close to it for

short periods of time before being driven back by police riots. And

while I could list numerous missed opportunities and tactical errors we

made, I cant honestly think of anything much we could have done, given

the overwhelming police presence and the physical layout of Miami, that

would have made for a significantly different tactical outcome.

We were Iraquedthat is, we were attacked not for anything wed done but

for someones inflated fears of what we might do; shot, gassed, beaten

and arrested for weapons of destruction we did not have; targeted for

who we are and what we stand for, not for acts we had committed. The

8.5 million dollars that was allocated for the policing of this event

came out of the 87 billion dollar appropriations bill for Iraq. Miami

was the Bush policy of pre-emptive bullying brought home.

There is a certain visceral sense of satisfaction in breaching a

barricade and directly blocking a meeting, but those are not actually

the measures we should use to judge our success. The direct action

strategy in contesting the summits is not really about physically

disrupting them. Its about undermining their legitimacy, unmasking

them, making visible their inherent violence and the repression

necessary to support them and undercutting public belief in their

beneficence or right to exist. And there, we are winning, not because

of any tactical brilliance on our part, but because in truth all we had

to do was show up, to be there as a visible body of opposition and

withstand the onslaught.

Our most effective direct actions may have been those we did in the days

and weeks before the meetings: the outreach, the community gardening,

the door-to-door flyering downtown, conducted under the constant threat

of arrest by a police force acting like Nazi bully boys, arresting

protestors for walking on the street, standing on the sidewalk, talking

to people or witnessing other arrests. In spite of the major fear

campaign and the negative propaganda being put forth by the police and

the media, just about every interaction we had with ordinary Miami folks

was positive. Locals were told by police that dangerous anarchists would

burn their shops, would shoot them with squirt guns full of urine and

feces, would smash their windows, and destroy Miami if not contained.

Nevertheless, local people were scared, but interested in what we had to

say. The poor and immigrant populations of downtown Miami understand

the issues of underlying economic injustice. They could quickly grasp

what the FTAA might mean for their jobs. They told us stories of water

privatization in their home countries, of 16 hour a day workshifts on

cruise ships that unions couldnt organize because they are registered

in other countries, of their daily struggle to survive on the streets,

of the ongoing police brutality faced by the homeless and the poor.

When we were driven back into Overtown, Miamis black ghetto, people

smiled and waved, came forward to help us, offered places for hunted

activists to hide, sheltered our puppets in their back yards. Other

local people came forward to offer housing and shelter, to donate food,

plants, and time to the mobilization, to hold vigils at the jail and to

provide support after most of the action had left town. It was as if

the bulk of the population pressed the mute button on the soundtrack

spewed by the media and the police, noticed what their own eyes were

telling them, and knew who their true allies were.

That disconnect, that gap between the reality the power structure was

attempting to construct and the actual reality of ordinary people, is

the fertile political space we need to nurture and explore in order to

move forward. For it leaves the bullies building a more and more

elaborate fortress of control that is unsupported by any foundation of

credibility or legitimacy. Where there should be the concrete of

credence and the rebar of faith, there is only air: and such a structure

is bound to fall. In its fall, it may well take a lot of us with it,

and therein lies both the danger and the opportunity of this political


Miami was a clear example of the New American Fascism brought home. I

dont use the word fascism lightly. I use it to mean that combination

of brutal state power applied ruthlessly against its critics, backed by

surveillance, media distortions, hate propaganda, and lies, allied

politically and economically with those who profit from the industries

of weaponry, prisons, and war..

In "The Lord of the Rings", the evil Sauron is represented by a red,

glaring, all-seeing eye. To be in Miami in November was to suffer that

searing, hostile gaze. The red eye of fascism is a double-barreled

gaze: the eye that watches, that records, that holds you under

surveillance and videos your comings and goings and compiles the

records: and the media/propaganda eye, that frames the story, that

defines and distorts you and tells everyone just what the justification

is for your repression.

For true totalitarian control, misrepresenting facts, telling a false

story, is not enough. Total control requires control over the frame of

the story, the meaning of the language you use, the boundaries of what

it is possible to think about. So "Violence" becomes a word whose

meaning changes radically when it is applied to protestors as opposed to

agents of the state. Violence is simply not applied to police by the

media or the political powers that be. The use of sound bombs, pepper

spray, rubber, wooden and plastic bullets, wooden batons, bean bag

pellets, and tear gas, illegal arrests, beatings, deprivation of basic

human rights, medical care, food and water, overt torture and sexual

assault are properly characterized by the word, "restraint," as in "the

police acted with restraint."

Friends of mine who were watching the news on the days of action all

reported a similar experience. They saw police move in on a crowd of

peaceful protestors, swinging billy clubs and firing tear gas and rubber

bullets. What they heard was commentary suggesting that protestors were

violent, and that therefore the police were justified in whatever

measures they chose.

Applied to activists, violence means, any act of opposition to total

military and police control, any act of resistance from walking in the

wrong place to talking to the wrong people to allying with other

suspects." Above all, any attempts to remove oneself from the

all-seeing gaze, to mask oneself, to carve out any space free of that

hostile red arc light, are evidence of violence.

Totalitarian control is deeply racist, sexist and homophobic, for it

depends on division and separation. Police attempted to divide the

unions from the direct action folk, by pushing the action into the area

where the permitted labor march was scheduled to go, attacking the crowd

there, attacking union members and punishing them for associating with

potentially dangerous others.

Activists of color were singled out for special abuse by the police and

prison guards, subjected to brutal beatings and outright torture in

jail, in spite of solidarity efforts by other activists. Sexual assaults

were carried out on women and transgendered prisoners. Queer prisoners

were harassed and mistreated.

The greatest victory we achieved in Miami is that these strategies of

division did not work. Instead of dividing labor and direct action,

repressive police tactics angered the unions who are now calling for a

congressional investigation. Our solidarity with labor remains strong,

as does our commitment to stand together and support each other through

the aftermath of the brutal attacks against our fellow activists, and to

name and unmask the racism, sexism and homophobia we encountered.
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#2 Old 12-09-2003, 12:02 PM
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The overwhelming military force and brutality of the police was a

measure of the utter bankruptcy of the policies they were defending.

Neoliberal economics, the Washington consensus behind the various free

trade agreements and institutions, is not hard to delegitimize because

it doesnt work. It promises increased prosperity for all if we allow

corporations free reign over the globe, privatize all public resources,

and end government support for any arenas of human activity that

actually increase health or well being or quality of life. Somehow the

poor are supposed to benefit from this. But this promise has

overwhelmingly proved false. Countries that implement these policies

have lost economic ground or gone belly-up, like Argentina. The gap

between rich and poor has grown into a vast chasm. NAFTA has been

devastating to the US economy, costing us over 785.000 good

manufacturing jobs, allowing corporations to sue governments for loss of

their projected profits if governments pass inconvenient environmental

or labor regulations. The developing countries have not been able to use

the WTO or any of these trade agreements as platforms to reduce tariffs

for their products or persuade the US and EU to reduce the agricultural

subsidies that have devastated small farmers around the worldhence the

walkout in Cancun of countries from the global south.

No one was defending the FTAA with any passion. In fact, brute force

seemed to be the major argument in its favor. And the FTAA summit

ended in a glossed-over failure. To prevent its utter collapse, the

conveners referred all controversial issues back to committee, ended a

day early, and pulled back from the original vision of an overarching

agreement to a truncated FTAA-Litewhich even in its watered-down form

has little chance of being adopted.

Their failure was a result of the years of organizing, education, truth

telling, and direct action weve done in the north to create and foster

that gap of belief, and perhaps even more, a result of the absolute

social disruption that the policies of the neoliberalism have spawned in

the global south, where governments have already fallen and ministers

know their populations will not tolerate more of the same.

We in the north are left confronting an alliance between economic

powers desperate to retain their advantage in a sinking economy, the

most powerful military/police force ever amassed on the planet, and a

subservient media willing to tell whatever story the rulers command.

But the more ruthless and brutal the system becomes, the wider and

deeper that gap of legitimacy may become.

Our political success and personal survival may depend on our ability to

understand and deepen that disconnect between eyes and ears, direct

experience and propaganda. At what point does it set in? When do people

start to believe their own eyes, to question the authority of the

commentators? How do we prevent the power structure from consolidating

a new foundation of belief? How far does that gap extend? How do we

widen and deepen the gap, and how do we mobilize and empower those who

have ceased to believe to take action? And as the fortress of control

begins to crumble over our heads, where do we find shelter from the

falling debris, and what new structures will we build in its place?

If we can build on the successes of Miami: the solidarity, the deepened

alliances, the trust, if we can turn those alliances into real political

power, we will have a strong victory. If the combined forces of the

progressive movements and the unions and the NGOs can succeed in making

the political and police powers of Miami pay a political and social

cost, we can stem the tide of repression.

There were actions we took in Miami that undoubtedly contributed to the

support we received: we waged a proactive media campaign, we planted a

community garden in Overtown and gave away dozens of trees, above all,

we went out and talked to people on the street. In the worst moments of

police assault, there were always those who moved forward to put their

bodies on the front line and slow the assault of the storm troopers.

People helped and supported and strengthened each other, and the shock

of the violence we experienced was tempered by the sweetness of support

and the inspiration of acts of courage.

We can go further in making our actions and organizing welcoming and

friendly, can perhaps devote more of our efforts to outreach and

connection instead of obsessing on our tactics, can confront our own

vestigial racism, sexism, homophobia and the other prejudices that can

divide us, and we can frame our actions and organizing with a clear

strategic goal: to broaden and deepen that gap of belief, to make strong

alliances with the disaffected and to mobilize the political power of

dissent, to unmask the violence, repression, and sheer ugliness of the

structures of control, to counter them with the beauty and joy of our

visions brought to life. Then we can stare back into that red,

totalitarian eye and pierce it with a white-hot gaze of truth, a spear

in the eye of the Cyclops. And we will have the support and strength we

need to withstand the monsters crash, and to begin the process of

building the world that we want.

Starhawks daily reports from Miami are achived at:

Starhawk is an activist, organizer, and author of Webs of Power: Notes

from the Global Uprising and eight other books on feminism, politics and

earth-based spirituality. She teaches Earth Activist Trainings that

combine permaculture design and activist skills, and works with the RANT

trainers collective, that offers training and

support for mobilizations around global justice and peace issues. To

get her periodic posts of her writings, email

[email protected] and put subscribe in the subject

heading. If youre on that list and dont want any more of these

writings, email [email protected] and put

unsubscribe in the subject heading.

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this

material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a

prior interest in receiving the included information for research and

educational purposes.***
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#3 Old 12-09-2003, 01:28 PM
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I was in Miami for the first 3 days of the protests. The perspective of the citizens of the area and the tourists/business travelers differs greatly from that of this idiot.

The presence of these "protesters" had zero impact on the meetings. The FTAA is bogged down because of the problems within the agreement, not the actions of the smelly hippies** outside the meetings.

** I personally encountered several of the protesters the day before the march. They smelled horrible. Combination of cheap pot and body odor. Nasty.
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#4 Old 12-09-2003, 02:36 PM
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Uh stereotypes again? I thought you'd know better by now. Tame, unions were protesting together with the "hippies" as you call them. AFL-CIO is calling for investigations into what happened in Miami with the police rioting essentially.
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#5 Old 12-09-2003, 02:43 PM
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I was there for part of what went on. Had a good seat for a few of the protests. I saw a couple of protesters get a beatdown after throwing stuff at cops. They got what they deserved.

The hippies smelled. Bad.
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#6 Old 12-09-2003, 03:09 PM
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I have trouble taking anything written by someone called Starhawk seriously.
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#7 Old 12-09-2003, 04:02 PM
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Peebs, she's actually a published writer, with a number of books out. Latest was Live from Palestine I believe, which just came out a few months ago. Do a search on amazon. Starhawk is a pseudonim used for security reasons.
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#8 Old 12-09-2003, 11:54 PM
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Hhhmmm...hidden identity for "security reasons" = lying shill afraid of the public eye according to my dictionary.

What is she afraid the One World Government (tm) will eliminate her?
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#9 Old 12-10-2003, 09:27 AM
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I've met Starhawk. She's a lovely, gracious, and very intelligent person. I have a lot of respect for her.
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