Jan 19, 2004
In December, Miami Judge Richard Margolius presided over trials of protesters who had come to the rally sponsored there by the AFL-CIO in November. The AFL-CIO targeted a meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), to protest the extension of NAFTA. NAFTA, according to them, means the loss of U.S. jobs.
The judge stated that he saw "no less than 20 felonies committed by police officers during the demonstrations.... I probably would have been arrested myself if it had not been for a police officer who recognized me."
Police in riot gear and police with rifles blocked many would-be demonstrators from even getting close to the area of planned rallies. Senior citizens, union members and young people attending the rally were sprayed with pepper gas, tear gas and rubber bullets. Taser guns were used to shoot darts attached to 15 feet of wire, thereby hitting protesters with 50,000 volts of electricity. The police singled out victims at random.
Over 200 non-combative protesters were arrested and hundreds were injured. A public radio reporter was strip searched by police. Some protesters were sexually assaulted in the jail.
The funding for this crackdown came from the same bill that gave 87 billion dollars for the war in Iraq. Also in that bill was eight and a half million dollars, to pay for security during the Miami FTAA talks.
Apparently there is no such thing as "free speech" once protesters single out the interests of the ruling class. If their interests are questioned, then it is perfectly okay to use the cops and the anti-terror laws against protesters, no matter rights we are supposed to have of "free speech.".
* * * * *
Many ordinary protesters attended the rally out of the false assumption that agreements like NAFTA and the FTAA are what causes jobs to be lost in the U.S.
Union officials and politicians say U.S. manufacturing jobs are going to other countries to divert attention away from the fight workers need to make right here at home to protect their jobs.
If U.S. jobs were being lost to other countries, the number of jobs in other countries should be growing. But according to a 2003 Wall Street Journal study, other countries, just like the U.S., have lost manufacturing jobs. China has lost 15% of manufacturing jobs in the last seven years. In Mexico, the maquiladoras, just across the border, lost 21% of manufacturing jobs in the last two years.
Overall, U.S. jobs are not going to other countries. Jobs are going to the bosses' drive for getting more work out of fewer workers – all around the world. Everywhere the problem for workers is the same.
No doubt most of the protesters went to Miami to oppose corporate greed. But to do that means to fight here against the bosses who get rid of jobs week after week by pushing workers to work harder, faster, and more unsafely. Unfortunately, protesters sustained injuries following an AFL-CIO leadership whose goal is leading the working class down a blind alley.