Friday, November 14, 2003
FTAA: Officials Pass Controversial Ordinance Against Protestors
Miami commissioners have passed an ordinance designed to keep crowds safe during the anticipated protests during the Free Trade Area of the Americas conference next week. Protestors say the measure infringes on their right to speak their minds.
MIAMI -- Officials aiming to keep the crowds safe next week during the Free Trade Area Of The Americas talks, but a new city ordinance is already stirring up controversy.
It was perhaps the last legal and political moves by city officials and protesters of the FTAA Conference.
Protesters - city officials - and police converging on Miami City Hall for one last fight over an ordinance that would increase police tools in a protest, all while taking away perceived tools of violence for protesters.
"Police response will be fine," Miami Police Chief John Timoney tells protestors at City Hall.
The confrontation began before the meeting started - protesters confronting Chief Timoney - trying to get an audience before the conference - and the demonstrations begin.
"We're more than willing to meet with you," Timoney says to protestors, "but I have someone designated to meet with you."
"But we want to meet with YOU," says a protestor.
When the battle finally went inside - city commissioners passing the protests and parades ordinance to change the way all demonstrations will go - not just FTAA.
Banned are possible weapons - such as rocks and slingshots - and new restrictions on signs to prevent them from being a weapon.
"This is just to avoid conflicts," saysMiami Deputy Chief of Police Frank Fernandez. "Obviously, they're bringing weapons to create conflict and we're trying to create these ordinances to prevent a conflict."
The ordinance was changed for today after some successfully argued that applying this ordinance just to FTAA would be unconstitutional - but that wasn't enough for protesters.
Max Rameau, an activist from "Peace and Justice," says, "We're extremely disappointed but not very surprised that the city decided to pass this law, and we know full well that it's not going to be applied equally."
Miami City CommissionerArthur Teele, Jr. says, "It puts a lot of power - a lot of discretion - in the hands of the police department, and I think we gained assurance that that discretion would be used fairly without regard to what their message is."
The final legal and political lines appear to be drawn. The next confrontation may be in the streets.