Tue 7 Feb 2012
Observations and Reflections on Events a week Ago…
For the last nine of the fifteen weeks of Occupy Miami’s encampment on the west lawn of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center building, I organized a weekly anti-war themed event.
We would meet at the site every Sunday at 4:00PM.
The theme of our last installment seems pointedly prescient now; “A Country At War With Its Own People”.
Most of these events were teach-ins, at which I would read prepared opening and closing remarks.
Usually, we featured extemporaneous presentations by author Sandy Davies.
Other contributors included Vietnam war veteran Chip Sullivan, Iraq war combat veteran and war resister Camilo Mejia, and Sandy’s son Jag, a noted anti-Drug War activist.
In my opening statement, noting the militarization of local police, I said: “The purpose of municipal police—to keep the peace and enforce the law for the benefit of the local citizenry, now decayed to the “kill the enemy” mentality of the soldier.”
Having read the notification of the previous day’s General Assembly posted on the Occupy Miami facebook page, it was clear the encampment’s days were numbered.
But the tone of the message would lead one to expect an uneventful dissolution. Not a stark demonstration of my “…decay…to the “kill the enemy” mentality of the soldier.”
By Tuesday morning, it was clear this would be eviction day. 5PM was the expected deadline.
At a quarter past four, police began to arrive.
But a 7:05PM posting reports “Well past the deadline, and still no arrests as of yet… Police have said they are waiting to move in after the 200+ crowd disperses.”
On the scene to observe, I’m there around 6PM, surprised to see little happening, save the movement of tents and belongings by the occupiers.
Some mainstream media reports made much of riot police later removing tents and other materials, but they worked from a minuscule supply.
I ask numerous people what might happen next, but no one seems to know the reason for the delay…
By 7:15PM, a group of five or six had resolved to peacefully resist the eviction by sitting in a circle, arm-in-arm in the middle of the now nearly empty lot, requiring police to physically remove them.
Make-shift barricades were erected around the group. As the crowd is ordered to disperse, supporters form a hand-in-hand circle around the resisters.
Sympathetic, I’m tempted to join, but resolve to remain an outside observer, to the extent that I could.
I notice that there seemed to be no one watching from the north side, as a group of observers on the south are moved behind a fence on the south side of the lawn. So from there, I watched the main event unfold.
As I stood alone, along the north side of the lawn and adjoining fountain, I was told at least twice by police to move back.
Clearly a gratuitous exercise of authority, It occurred to me I was fortunate they settled for immediate compliance. Reading the experiences of journalist Carlos Miller the next day confirmed my suspicions…
An uneventful span is broken by what an 8:18PM Occupy facebook posting describes as “Nearly 100 police in riot gear have been dispatched to confront 6 peaceful protestors practicing civil disobedience.”
It was quite an imposing sight; police running in single file along the north side of the field, gathering in precise formation.
But “…dispatched to confront 6 peaceful protestors…” would prove a grave misapprehension.
For the focus of this mass of riot police was not the little handful of resisters, but their small crowd of supporters.
The ensuing events have been chronicled in detail by members of the crowd, my view of them largely blocked by the main body of county riot police.
As the main county police contingent pushed the demonstrators back in stages to the west sidewalk, where I stood, I looked to my left. At the N.W. 2nd street and 2nd Avenue traffic light, just north of the line of confrontation, a group of at least twenty city of Miami riot police gathered in tight formation.
Two county riot police officers shortly arrived for consultations.
The purpose of this odd over-staffing began to crystallize…
The city and county forces would work in concert to force the crowd down to the corner, N.W.1st street, and west, towards the the bridge across the river, about two blocks down…
As they reached the middle of the block, I had ridden my bicycle around to the west (back) of the crowd.
I heard an announcement: “Everyone here is under arrest!”.
Finally, what remained of the demonstrators dispersed. I turned and crossed the river, intent on going one block down, to the next bridge and re-entering downtown.
As I turned the corner of S.W. 2nd Avenue, on to S.W. 1st Street, an unexpected sight…
Three or four of the little circle of six resistors walked the street, unfettered.
Before I left my northern vantage point, I noticed about three of the riot police standing over the the resistors, still seated behind their ramparts. I assumed the three were charged with their arrest.
But the resistors complained of being “ignored”; of feeling they were being “held hostage” in lieu of being arrested.
What had become clear to them was that rather than play their role in the resistor’s heroically symbolic act, the authorities would spoil it by simply waiting them out.
Seeing the futility, they wisely walked away.
And while it’s been suggested that this event was intended as a practice run for the Republican convention in Tampa at the end of August, and may very well serve that purpose, the broader and more sinister underlying purpose becomes clear.
To intimidate, stifle and thwart descent.
Why else ignore the resistors? Why else focus on their supporters?
This entire drama stretched out over more than five hours.
In retrospect, the small contingent of regular police officers on the scene from the beginning could have managed the matter on their own, without on-site riot police. Off-site alert and preparation may have been sufficient prudence…
A crowd this size and emotional bent may have become agitated and loud, but once the resistors were taken away, it would have dispersed, deflated.
I personally know enough of the six resistors and many of their supporters well enough to be convinced of their peaceful intent. From the heart, a frequent chant that night: “there’s no violence here take off that stupid riot gear.”
But this was taken as an opportunity to show that even peaceful descent carries risk. That in the face of public opposition, authority will have it’s way.
Many times I pointed to the riot police and told bystanders, “these are not police officers, these are soldiers!”
Miami may be a long way from Cairo, but are we not clearly on that path?
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