Welcome to NOW.
We begin with an examination of how the government is responding to dissent to protest in this country.
We're going to focus on what may appear to be one event, anchored in a particular time and place. But what happened there has important implications for political events scheduled for this summer.
Big demonstrations are already being planned for the political conventions in Boston and New York.
Hundreds of thousands of people could hit the streets.
Producer/correspondent Kathleen Hughes went to Miami to investigate 36 hours last November that some say marked a dangerous turning point in America's approach to dissent.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: You would have thought Miami Florida was preparing for a hurricane last November...the city was clearly hunkering down for trouble.
But what Miami was bracing for was a gathering of diplomats thirty four ministers of trade coming to negotiate an agreement called the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the FTAA, it's purpose: to further globalize the world's economy by eliminating trade barriers throughout the western hemisphere.
Louis Lauredo, former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States ran the proceedings:
LOUIS LAUREDO: We have an interest in creating prosperity in this hemisphere, which is the whole vision behind this-- free trade Americas.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Miami officials had a lot riding on the conference. If the trade talks succeeded, the city would be in a good position to become the new FTAA's headquarters, with all the prestige, influence and jobs that come with it.
The free-trade agreement's enthusiastic supporters include the power players in Washington -- both the Clinton and Bush administrations have pushed it.
Corporate America backs it, too. Among private donors helping pay for the Miami conference were Fortune 500 companies including General Motors, PepsiCo, AOL-Time Warner, and Federal Express.
With all that power behind the agreement, why were the police out in such force?
In part because of what has happened at previous world trade meetings.
In the weeks before the FTAA events, Miami newscasters, using footage from protests in other cities, were hyping the potential for chaos.
LOCAL NEWSWOMAN: A live look at downtown Miami tonight - quiet, serene and peaceful.
LOCAL NEWSMAN: But in a matter of days, police fear protesters could storm through those serene streets in a wave of violence and vandalism.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: But the organizers of the protest had spent months preparing for a nonviolent demonstration.
RICHARD TRUMKA: Our planning was to make sure that this was the most peaceful demonstration that existed so that we could exhibit our right to public assembly, public dissent and freedom of speech and have our message out without it getting trampled on.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: When it came time for the protest, it was clear that an overwhelming number of the estimated 10,000 people who showed up were there on a peaceful mission. Many of them were working people claiming that the agreement would undermine a living wages, and send more good jobs offshore.
Richard Trumka is Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO.
RICHARD TRUMKA: We had professional people, we had blue-collar workers, we had engineers, we had nurses, we had doctors.
People were coming together from all walks of life to say in one unified voice that the FTAA and the old trade rules had failed or they weren't working for America's working families.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Two points of view - in the hotel, those in favor of a free trade agreement - on the street, those opposed. It was set to be a classic clash of interests. But what happened instead, say many who were there, was something else altogether: an unprecedented show of government force bent on criminalizing the voices of dissent.
It's become a touchstone in the debate about how to treat protesters in an age of terror.
RICHARD TRUMKA: I've never seen this many armed, body-armored riot police in one place in my entire life.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Thursday, November 20 - the day of the trade union rally.
An estimated 2500 police officers were on the street many in riot gear, equipped with rubber bullets, pepper spray and other so-called "less-lethal" weapons.
Cameras, some in the open, some hidden, were everywhere.
--lines of police this way.
Armored personnel carriers over there. Special vehicles. I couldn't tell if they had water canons or what they had on them but they were clearly anti-people-- you know crowd control vehicles.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Larry Winawer was helping the union that day, escorting elderly protesters -- people like Bentley Killmon. Killmon is a retired airline pilot and Korean War veteran. He had come on a bus from his home near Fort Myers to raise a voice against the agreement at the AFL-CIO rally inside the Bayfront Amphitheater.
But when I got off the bus on-- at the amphitheater that whole area there was just about-- loaded with police.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Killmon made it inside the amphitheater. The AFL-CIO says many of his fellow protesters were left outside.
RICHARD TRUMKA (from rally): Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that there are buses that are not being allowed to come in here and join in this protest
RICHARD TRUMKA: There were armed officers, body-armored officers that were shoulder-to-shoulder that were preventing people from going into the amphitheater. They never made it in.
RICHARD TRUMKA (from rally): We want them to know our voice won't be silent. Let our people in! Let our people in!
RICHARD TRUMKA: After we got in there, into the amphitheater, unbeknownst to us about a hundred or 120 of the armed people marched into the back of the amphitheater. Never told us anything about it. When we went up and we questioned them, said what are you doing here--I mean, they were obviously intimidating--they said, oh, we're here to protect you. And we said, Protect us? From what? Ourselves?
KATHLEEN HUGHES: After the rally, many of the senior citizens, including Bentley Killmon, say they couldn't find their busses.
even though I would walk up to the phalanx of police, or law enforcement people, they would not converse with me. I would-- I told 'em I said, "I want to find the buses. I want to get outta here and get back home." No response.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Killmon did find Larry Winawer. Together they went looking for Killmon's bus. But their way was cut off by the police.
They had weapons pointed at us that not only guns and such as that. That also had mace bottles, tasers and all this, that and the other paraphernalia pointed at us. Which if it didn't kill you would really put a hurtin' on you.
LARRY WINAWER: Ben and I were talking just as we are now and from the west
a wall of police, and I mean a wall of riot clad police with guns drawn were screaming "get down, get down"
So needless to say I got down. I was not --I may be a little bit touched but I'm not totally dumb. So I got down on my knees. So the next thing I knew it was either a foot or a knee that was put in my back and I was forced onto the ground at which time they did handcuff me with the nylon handcuffs.
The men say they were handcuffed for 12 hours, and held for a total of 24. They were eventually charged with resisting arrest.
RICHARD TRUMKA: They did these giant sweeps, didn't care whether you were a peaceful protestor acting within your rights or not. Did not matter. You got swept up. And they did not care.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: It wasn't just protesters who say they were denied their civil rights. Local journalist Celeste Delgado was covering the event for her weekly paper. She says she was about 25 blocks north of the main protest when police forced her to the ground.
Police ignored her press credentials, she says cuffing her and taking her into custody.
She eventually learned, to her surprise, what she'd been arrested for:
CELESTE DELGADO: And my counts were resisting arrest without violence and failure to obey a legal order.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: The police narrative of the arrest surprised her even more. She was described as "with a group of individuals which matched description of people who were throwing rocks."
Do you have any idea whether those people had been throwing rocks?
I don't know. But again it said I was with people who fit the description of people who were throwing rocks. So it wasn't even saying--
They had thrown rocks.
At least 234 people were arrested, and before it was over, police had fired over a thousand rounds of rubber bullets and other projectiles.
Critics amassed dozens of examples of what they describe as law enforcement abuses, even one of the judges presiding over the subsequent cases spoke out, saying in court that he saw no less than 20 felonies committed by police officers.
But Miami's Chief of Police, John Timoney, is proud of what his force accomplished at the FTAA protests.
CHIEF JOHN TIMONEY: I'm completely satisfied that we did everything according-to the book. The way we planned it.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Timoney coordinated the entire security effort. He was the man in charge.
CHIEF TIMONEY: We put seven or eight months of planning for this event.
We filmed everything. We have documented everything. And so a lot of the charges that are out there in the public domain, are just that. Charges without much substance.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Timoney says police face a new reality in confronting dissent as a result America's War on Terror.
CHIEF TIMONEY: Of course, post 9-11, you factor in the possibility of a large event being a, if you will, an inviting target for a terrorist.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: That translates into the need for massive force. All told 40 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies were on hand including 25 local police agencies, Florida State Troopers, the FBI, the Coast Guard, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and…Homeland Security.
And so, this was the first big event for Homeland Security which includes a whole host of federal agencies including Coast Guard and Customs and things like that.
It really was the first real, realistic, if you will, run-through to see how it would work. And it worked pretty well.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: The Miami police worked with Washington to gird against any potential terror activity. Timoney says they also spent months training to defend the city against a small group of troublemakers - he calls them anarchists.
CHIEF TIMONEY: We were watching on the internet, and a whole variety of sources, and through a whole variety of intelligence what anarchists were coming to do-- in the city of Miami. Yes.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Jim Defede, columnist at the MIAMI HERALD says the anarchist threat was overblown.
What the news media was able to do what the police department was able was to do was define anyone who protested against the FTAA as an outsider.
Therefore the police felt free to defend Miami against these invading hoards.
You know, they would always be very careful. It was always very slick. They would always talk about how, well it's just one percent. One percent of the people coming to protest are anarchists, or the perceived anarchists are violent or here to do harm. The other 99 percent are fine. But at the end of the day the taint of that one percent spilled over on the entire group. And so therefore everyone was a perceived threat. Everyone was a possible anarchist, even 80-year-old retirees coming down from Boca Raton on busses, they could be a threat.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: That's not how Chief Timoney says he saw it.
The problem wasn't with the Miami police department. The problem was with the anarchists who are hell-bent on- on causing-- causing havoc.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: And indeed, during the Miami protest there were groups calling themselves anarchist. And there was trouble.
There was no satiating their appetite for violence.
In fact, while trade unionists and others were preparing to march, a small group of troublemakers gathered
outside a fence near the hotel where the ministers were staying. The city had invested nearly $200,000 dollars to build the fence.
CHIEF TIMONEY: They came down at seven in the morning, and tried to tear the fence down. The hook-- you know, they came down with grappling hooks-- tied on rope, trying to pull it down, doing their thing, throwing paint at police officers, attacking the mayor's car.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: There was more later in the day protesters can be clearly seen on tape, setting up barricades, trying to start a fire, and throwing things, in what Timoney calls a barrage of fire from the anarchists.
How-- how many do you think made it to Miami?
I have no idea.
No idea. You can't tell?
Even from your videotapes? A rough estimate?
KATHLEEN HUGHES: No one can say how many troublemakers, anarchist or not, there were in Miami that day. But observers called them a tiny minority.
LOCAL CHANNEL 6 NEWSWOMAN OVER AERIAL SHOT OF THE PROTEST: Because when you think about the parade and the thousands of people that we saw in a peaceful way, manifesting their points of view. This is really a small pocket that has in a way gotten out of control.
We were told that this police department was going to be very smart in how it handled protesters. That they were going to be like a razor that was able to go in and slice off a single protester who was causing disturbance and leaving the greater good unharmed.
Well we ended up with just the opposite.
Is it possible that some people were mistaken for violent people, when in fact, they weren't?
How would they be mistaken?
There's many people who say they--
Well, they can say anything they want, as long as you look at the video. Look at the footage.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: We looked at a lot of footage. One person we saw was protester Nikki Hartman.
Hartman says she knelt alone to pray in front of a wall of police officers, then was shot by something as she fled from them.
NIKKI HARTMAN: …and then they hit my left shoulder and I felt to the ground.
On all fours. And I tried to crawl away. I tried to leave the area while they were still firing at me.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Hartman was not arrested. An ambulance took her to the hospital, where, she says, five staples closed a wound in her head.
And then there is this footage shot by filmmaker Carl Kesser.
Kesser is all for the FTAA agreement, and he wants its headquarters in Miami. He had been out all week making a tape he hoped would be used to promote the FTAA.
But now watch this, look at that guy. That man is shooting at people's heads.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: That afternoon, Kesser was on Biscayne Blvd. with a pack of reporters who had donned gas masks to fend off tear gas. The police were on the move clearing protesters from the area.
CARL KESSER: Watch this, it's unbelievable.
There I go. Here's all news people. I just got hit.
CARL KESSER (ON TAPE): Oh my God! Oh my God!
There's my blood on the lens
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Kesser was hit in the head with this-a so-called less lethal weapon known as a "bean bag" lead pellets wrapped in cloth.
The bean bag embedded itself in Kesser's skull. Surgeons spent over 3 hours removing it.
One inch to the left, I would have lost my eye. One inch to the right, I would have lost my ear. And the doctors said, "One inch above, I would have been dead." So, you know, we're just grateful that I'm alive.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Miami Police Chief John Timoney, remains convinced the actions of the anarchists, on balance, justified the police response.
These are not your father's protesters. They're pretty smart. They're well organized. They're trained.
They have a game plan. They have a pre game plan. They have a game plan. They have a post game plan. You're part of the post game plan.
In other words you're saying they're manipulating--
Oh, of course. Without a doubt. Without a doubt. Without a doubt.
Cause I could tell by the questions and the stuff you're asking that you're another pawn in the post game show. That's all.
So-- in other words by questioning what happened--
No. No. You're allowed to question. But it's the type of questions-- what you're alleging-- you're alleging things that didn't happen. But you-- you know you-- you-- you're doing the bidding. You're looking for sound bytes. You'll get all that and that's fine.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Timoney charges that a journalist's questions are part of a plot against the police. Others charge that it was the police who were taking sides, actively supporting the FTAA and criminalizing the protesters' message.
LIDA RODRIGUEZ TASEFF:
They decided that these people were the enemy. And they decided that they were the enemy because they didn't like what they had to say.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Lida Rodriguez Taseff is a president of the Greater Miami Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. She says that in preparation for the summit, police officials gave a powerpoint presentation touting the advantages of headquartering the trade group in Miami.
LIDA RODRIGUEZ TASEFF: And if you look through that Power Point presentation, the police is giving the presentation. And they're talking about the FTAA, and what is the FTAA gonna do for the community. And talking about the FTAA in very laudatory terms.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: In their power point slides the police highlight that a new international trade headquarters in Miami could provide Florida up to 89,000 jobs, and $13.5 billion dollars annually in new economic activity.
Ambassador Louis Lauredo says he advised the police to be sensitive to those financial issues.
LOUIS LAUREDO: I spent more time at the trainings and talking to the policemen to sensitize them to what was at stake here-- what was at stake for the United States, what was at stake for the people of Florida, for the people of Miami. And to have them sensitized -- not only about the issues that were in this country, 'cause it's just not an event. This is a major diplomatic encounter. That would affect that -- I told them-- their pocketbooks.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: The ACLU's Rodriguez-Taseff says the police were biased.
When you take the police from their neutral role as neutral enforcers of the law.
And turn them into essentially the Chamber of Commerce. Turn them into an entity that had a definite opinion on the substance of the FTAA protests. This essentially turned around the entire debate. And it was no longer about whether or not these people were being peaceful. But it became about whether or not we like their message.
The ACLU is making the case that the police department viewed the protestors as the enemy, in the sense that the protestors were against the FTAA. And the FTAA was good for Miami.
Absolutely not-- that's not-- that's the AFL-- I mean, that's the ACLU. Stop it. Stop it.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: The AFL-CIO has asked the Justice Department to launch an investigation. Why a federal investigation? Because the feds helped pay for what happened in Miami.
Louis Lauredo says it happened like this. Last fall, Florida governor Jeb Bush and a coalition of the state's business and government officials went to Congress seeking eight and a half million dollars for security at the FTAA summit.
And Congress came through. Remember that 87 billion dollar emergency appropriations bill for the rebuilding of Afghanistan and Iraq? It included eight and a half million dollars for security at the Miami FTAA meeting.
DEFEDE: We spent you know, in a bill designed to provide billions of dollars to bring democracy and ordering stability to Iraq, we were able to funnel off eight and a half million dollars to do just the opposite in Miami.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: There's no word whether the Justice Department will take up the AFL-CIO's request for an investigation, but in Miami a civilian investigative panel has already started looking into allegations of police misconduct.
The police have called the shooting of filmmaker Carl Kesser in the head an unfortunate accident.
But three weeks ago, when Chief Timoney came before the panel, he declared police actions an overall success.
There are some lessons to be learned - which we will go into but overall I take exception to some of the charges and allegations that are out there. I think the men and women of the Miami police department performed admirably. They used great restraint and professionalism.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: Protester Bentley Killmon takes away a different lesson.
They say Homeland Security, it's homeland suppression.
KATHLEEN HUGHES: The man who once fought for his country in the Korean War now worries about the nation's future.
This is not America.