Yesterday I spent some time at the U-C IMC helping to do phone interviews with our reporters on the streets in Miami, and then posting updates to the U-C IMC website. I arrived at the IMC just before the police made a major and violent offensive against peaceful protestors gathered a few blocks away from the fenced off FTAA Summit area. Four of our protestors were caught in the push and forced nearly 18 blocks away from downtown.
Last night one of our reporters gave a really good summary of the police offensive, reporting that the cops repeated over a bullhorn that there would be problems if there was no violence, but then started pushing and using gas and projectiles against protestors, apparently unprovoked. It’s worthwile to give that summary a listen.
This morning there are no major protest actions planned in Miami because the FTAA talks ended early with a watered down bare-bones agreement that will need much more negotiation. Zach, one of the U-C IMC reporters in Miami, told us this morning that initially many activists were disappointed to hear the talks ended with an agreement of some sort. But their mood changed when they realized that the agreement was not particularly detailed or cohesive — apparently Canada, in particular, was pushing to have much more specific agreement, but relented.
It’s widely believed that the protests had the effect of making the trade ministers wrap up the FTAA talks as quickly as possible, thereby delaying agreements on details and possibly delaying any real implementation of the agreement. Because so much is left to be worked out, there is still a high potential for any agreement to break down.
In terms of the mainstream media, Zach said only TV camerapeople were really present on the street with the protestors — no on-camera reporters, except for some of the Miami local Spanish-language channels. He said that the camerapeople seemed supportive of the protestors, and were themselves often attacked by police projectiles and gas. FTAA IMC has some pictures of these guys all geared up to face police assaults.
This morning at least 50 activists gathered in front of the Miami Herald to demonstrate against the paper embedding some journalists with the Miami police guarding the FTAA Summit zone.
Probably the most disturbing thing is how little coverage the mainstream press has given to the Summit and protests. One might think that having downtown Miami effectively shut down and turned into a police state, while thousands of peaceful protestors are gassed and beaten might be pretty important news. But instead, it seems as though the mainstream press — from the New York Times to CNN and FOX — knows who’s buttering their bread, and do not see it in their best interest to privilege the protests as news.
The surprise factor that made the Battle of Seattle big news in 1999 is no longer there, even if the suprise is that protestors didn’t wreak the kind of mass havoc and destruction the Miami authorities had warned would happen. Now the mainstream media have plenty of time to decide exactly how much and what kind of coverage they want to give, and as long as nobody breaks ranks with real reportage, then it’s not big news.
Local Miami media covered the protests, but the tone and quality of coverage varied. U-C IMC reporters watching local TV yesterday afternoon said much of the video was coming from helicopters overhead, making it into spectacle, kind of like the high-speed police car chases that get televised in Los Angeles.
The Miami Herald this morning published a four-photo spread of yesterday’s police offensive. Three pictures showed cops shooting or injuring protestors, one picture showed a protestor throwing back a gas canister police had launched at him. The only caption was for the photo of the protestor throwing the canister, which also said that protestors provoked the police violence.
Today one of our reporters who was at the very front line of the protestors, right in front of the police, yesterday afternoon told me that this is patently false — she saw no protestors do anything violent before the police advanced. However, she says she saw many protestors who she believed were actually cops, and has heard from many people who saw cops dressed as protestors walk right up to the fence and be let in to join the uniformed cops.