December 10, 2003: Headlines: COS - Cameroon: Journalism: Speaking Out: Police: Madison Capital Times: Cameroon RPCV Margaret Krome says Heavy-Handed Police Tactics Uncalled for In Democracy

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Cameroon: Special Reports: Camerooon RPCV and Political Columnist Margaret Krome: September 5, 2002: Headlines: COS - Cameroon: Journalism: Speaking Out: Futurism: Agriculture: Madison Capital Times: Cameroon RPCV Margaret Krome says No Rosy Future in Sight : December 10, 2003: Headlines: COS - Cameroon: Journalism: Speaking Out: Police: Madison Capital Times: Cameroon RPCV Margaret Krome says Heavy-Handed Police Tactics Uncalled for In Democracy

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Cameroon RPCV Margaret Krome says Heavy-Handed Police Tactics Uncalled for In Democracy

Cameroon RPCV Margaret Krome says Heavy-Handed Police Tactics Uncalled for In Democracy

Cameroon RPCV Margaret Krome says Heavy-Handed Police Tactics Uncalled for In Democracy

Heavy-Handed Police Tactics Uncalled for In Democracy
by Margaret Krome

The breeze blows gauzy curtains across the advertisement's photographic image, revealing a luscious view of the ocean beyond. The resort's ad promises fine cuisine and unsurpassed personal service, noting the "thrilling nightlife" of South Beach. It's a tantalizing invitation to a northern dreamer in early December. Freedom.

Three weeks ago, thousands of visitors experienced firsthand the result of months of the city of Miami's careful attention to small details. However, far from unfettered fantasies of enjoying pampered attentions on subtropical beaches, it was a nightmarish tragedy.

In late November, Miami hosted the Free Trade Area of the America talks, with representatives from over 30 Western Hemisphere countries. The dangers of this proposed trade liberalization agreement emerge in rarely reported details. For example, it extends misguided policies in the North American Free Trade Agreement that challenge federal, state and local jurisdictional authority on even basic services if it can be construed as a barrier to some company's profit-making. Like other undemocratic agreements, such "trade" challenges would be reviewed by a small, non-democratically elected body.

No wonder thousands of people went to Miami to protest this little understood and heavily sanitized assault on democratic process. Trade union members, environmentalists and defenders of free speech turned up by the thousands to protest the talks peacefully. Union leaders had worked with police for months to set agreements on transportation, demonstration sites and other logistics. Unfortunately, it turned out that the city of Miami had been preparing a different experience, also for months.

Legal observers, medical personnel and others at the Miami demonstrations described how police repeatedly initiated attacks against peaceful demonstrators without any provocation. Police fired tear gas without warning into peaceful crowds and used tasers, rubber and wooden bullets, concussion grenades and electrical shields. Demonstrators were randomly pulled behind police lines, often three rows thick, without explanation, where neither legal observers nor medical personnel could reach.

Democracy Now! producers, with press credentials visible, were handcuffed and held in a Miami Police patrol wagon as they videotaped arrests. Sierra Club national advocate Dan Seligman described a weapon being held to his head. Mark Rand, a coordinator of a group of foundation funders, was shot with a rubber bullet. Global Exchange co-founder Medea Benjamin and others were pulled over by numerous offers who pointed guns directly at them.

Erik Esse of the Right Here Media Collective described a group of protesters from Colorado at this, their first demonstration. "They were standing near the police line watching some people dance and drum in the street. Even though the official march was over, the police announced that they would be allowed to continue to assemble. But just a few minutes later, without warning, the police charged, pushing people back with batons, hitting people, and eventually firing rubber bullets and other projectiles."

One young woman said she had come to Miami to be a peaceful presence in a tense situation. She described looking an officer straight in the eye, "trying to connect with him as a human being," when he suddenly charged forward, shoving his baton into her stomach. The police had no identification, no badge numbers, no agency name, and had been instructed not to speak.

But this was not a case of police losing their heads. Rather, a spokesperson for the Miami Police Department said, "Everything that we're doing is falling into place like a well-oiled machine," and called their approach a "blueprint for homeland security."

Did you see this story in the news? The little I saw was lopsided reporting that ignored the tremendous loss of free speech and civil rights that occurred.

Events on Nov. 20 in Miami should be a major topic of discussion of presidential candidates. But distressingly, in the repressive climate permitted by the Patriot Act, the media were restricted to a sanitized version of events.

Far from Miami's warm and idyllic image, the excessive force and disrespect for democratic rights offer a frigid blast of realism about extreme measures now permitted to restrain real debate about important issues.

Margaret Krome of Madison writes a semimonthly column for The Capital Times. E-mail:

Copyright 2003 The Capital Times

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Madison Capital Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Cameroon; Journalism; Speaking Out; Police



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