Police actions at FTAA talks denounced

MIAMI – In the wake of the violent police actions against peaceful demonstrators who rallied here in mid-November against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), about 350 trade unionists and activists crammed into the United Teachers of Dade headquarters on Dec. 16 to call for the resignation of Miami Police Chief John Timoney and a full investigation of police wrongdoing during the trade talks.

The meeting opened with the viewing of a short film depicting the police as they clubbed, tear-gassed, and shot rubber bullets against hundreds of peaceful protestors outside the FTAA meeting. This never-before-seen footage clearly showed the provocations by the police as they trampled over people and made mass arrests.

Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, brought the audience to its feet when he proclaimed the events of Nov. 20 were an outrage against those who traveled to Miami that day.

“Never again will our workers and their allies be treated as they were,” Trumka said.

The meeting, which was sponsored by the AFL-CIO and the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA), included testimony of many witnesses and victims of police brutality and arbitrary arrests.

Stan Johnson, special projects coordinator for the United Steelworkers, witnessed many of these acts and said that at the time he could not believe what he was seeing. Other testimony came from Pearl Levine of SEIU District 1199, Hani Lipp of UNITE!, Edmund X. Campbell of the American Postal Workers Union, and Harold LaBell of the ARA.

A fighting spirit dominated the meeting. Audience members vowed to continue to demonstrate against the FTAA and to work to remove all the officials who had a hand in this “police riot.”

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.