What I am about to speak about is not a conspiracy, it is not an exaggeration, and you might say the incidents are isolated anomalies, but there are a growing number of incidents that make me wonder if this isn’t more the reality than we are willing to believe.
Until you push, until you speak out against the current system, the image you see of our government’s use of physical force to carry out the laws seems appropriate. If you come from a middle or upper class neighborhood, your impression of the police is likely a positive one. They help enforce laws and keep people safe, and minus the occasional speeding ticket that you get, your happy to have their protection. Most feel the same way about the military of our country. Whether we agree or disagree with the war, we generally feel that the military feels it is doing it’s best to protect and care for the citizens of this free land. It’s a wonderful outlook and most of what we have experienced supports that reality.
It wasn’t until I began to question some of the decisions of our government and our current system, that I saw the ugly side of the system. My experience was primarily involved with preparation and involvement in protest during the G-8 in Brunswick Georgia in 2001. The G-8 is a gathering of 8 global world leaders who come together to discuss global issues. I could write pages on my experience there, but I’ll highlight some of the main points, and you’ll have to trust my experience.
First, in preparation for the protest we were involved with a number of other people from across the country and many in Brunswick to plan the gathering and the events. I heard first hand of the intimidation and oppression that some of the lead organizers were experiencing. This is not a conspiracy, this is literally things that happened: people’s phones were tapped, a SWAT Team entered the home of the mother of one of the organizers and took it over (this is shocking, but it is a ‘legal’ right under marshal law for the police to basically take over what ever they need to) and then set up a surveillance center to watch the organizers in the house across the street. I’m really not making these things up. Ordinance after ordinance was disallowed, permits for basic gatherings in parks and marches down streets were denied. This might not seem like a big deal, but what was happening was that basic rights as citizens were being denied and our opportunity to express our first amendment rights were taken before we could even express them.
Let me give you an idea of the magnitude of this. As the days led up to the G8 summit we read article after article about the 20,000 police and military were being trained to handle the protesters. That is were your tax dollars were going 20,000 officers specifically trained in riot training, and this was under the ‘Miami Model‘ (I’ll get to it later). These police were trained to use clubs, mace, rubber bullets, handcuffs and intimidation to confront the ‘violent protest’ they were planning on meeting. Let me address this briefly.
In my experience, what I have seen on video and with my own eyes, and every person I have talked to who have attended protests, I have never met a single person who had any intention of being violent (against a person). There are a few that enjoy provoking the police. There are a couple that desire to do harm to ‘the system’ by breaking windows and hindering consumerism, but this is a very small number of any protest. So, cops are trained to violently stop protests and in my experience they make little effort to distinguish between those peacefully protesting and those doing anything that might disturb the peace, break laws or be even close to considering anything a ‘riot.’
Finally, the G8 protest in Brunswick GA was attended by about 200 protesters at most. That’s nearly 100 riot cops and military for each of us protesters (a little absurd I know). Our experience was a positive one, and I’m happy to say I was not struck by a baton, rubber bullet or tear gas and the police were generally respectable. Starring at a line of riot cops standing in front of you with their giant shields, not flinching and not moving, and apparently there for nothing more then to intimidate the snot out of anyone was a disturbing experience. The reason there was only 200 protesters at this event is because of the gross injustice and violence that was experienced less then a year earlier at the Miami FTA Meetings. I found a video that is about 1.5 hours long that I think captures a lot of the violence that scared and intimidated people from coming to another event. Riot cops shot rubber bullets into crowds, sprayed mace at masses of people, and beat people with clubs when it was completely unnecessary.
What does this have to do with the discussion of democracy? You do not have to agree with those who protest, you don’t have to like them, in fact you might even think they are learning a lesson by being shot with rubber bullets. For me though, my experience and what I have seen has made me feel that I live in a police state and not in a democracy.
It’s an hour and a half long but I really think every citizen needs to see this. But for those who won’t watch the whole thing here is a series of links to clips through out that you might want to see.
- Miami Citizen amidst the protest explaining the situation and shot by a rubber bullet. (watch 5 minutes) and here is an article about her and the police reaction.
- Workers of the Americas Speaker shares what happened to Steal Worker Retirees being abused by police.
- First, a women bloodied from being shot and then a Protester shot multiple times with rubber bullets (I’m not saying I agree with his attitude or expletives, but I certainly don’t think the police force was appropriate for the situation.
- Violence against news reporters (including one who was paralyzed). Keep watching and you’ll hear disturbing interviews of police in an urban neighborhood who were encouraged by police officers to rob the protesters.
- Finally a woman shares her experience of police abuse after being arrested.
After looking I could only find one news article about the injustice of the protest and it was from the AFL-CIO:
Stopping the “Miami Model” in its Tracks: Defending Civil Liberties, Demanding Justice
The ACLU also wrote up a press release on some of the lawsuits that were filed:
Police Trampled Civil Rights During 2003 Free Trade Protests in Florida, ACLU Charges