Thursday, November 13, 2003
FTAA: Arrests Of Protestors Cause Rift Between Police Departments
Miami-Dade Police arrested three protestors for possession of drugs and a concealed weapon. The City of Miami has voiced concerns that the arrests were outside of the counties jurisdiction.
MIAMI -- Three arrests of protesters in town for the Free Trade Area of the Americas - or FTAA - conference didn't upset protesters nearly as much as it seems to have upset city officials and now county police.
The trio of protesters were arrested Tuesday in a warehouse district in downtown... But Miami-Dade police arrested them inside city limits... a perfectly legal move that raised eyebrows because the three were protesters.
When Miami-Dade cops approached the three on suspicion of burglary - with wires and other items sticking out of their backpacks (see image) - they allegedly did not cooperate. A search then led to a concealed knife and a controlled substance. The three - all from other states and purportedly here for the FTAA conference - were arrested and hauled off to jail.
However - Miami City officials are questioning the arrests by county cops inside their city limits... saying - among other things - the arrests send the wrong message.
Miami City Manager Joe Arriola says, "We need to give people room, we don't need to make martyrs out of these folks... but having said that, the three kids that were arrested, were good arrests. One of them had a concealed weapon for heaven's sakes."
Miami Mayor Manny Diaz says, "I think it was a mistake. I can tell you that with respect to our department that there was a directive from our Chief that arrests like that weren't going to be made."
Arriola says, "I don't want people to now think everyone in Miami is on this beat-em-over-the-head code. We're not. We're gonna let 'em express themselves."
The criticisms led Miami-Dade Police Director Carlos Alvarez to respond angrily. "How can you say that it was a mistake?" he says. "That's somebody's opinion who has never been in that position and quite frankly, it's irresponsible."
Alvarez adding the officers had proper probable cause - pointing to the wires and copper tubing sticking out of the protesters' backpacks before the officers even approached them.
"I'm not going to second-guess them," says Alvarez. "I've been there. I've made plenty of arrests in my career and I wouldn't want anyone second-guessing them. Especially if you've never been put in those shoes."
He adds, "It's very easy for politicians to make statements that mistakes were made when they've never been in that position."