On the balmy mid-afternoon of Nov. 19 I was in Miami, sitting on a corner, mostly minding my own business, enjoying a mango smoothie near a street blockaded by police officers. I was there to cover the protests against the misnamed Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, which should properly be called the Free Exploitation of America Regime, or FEAR.
I had arrived in the area a day earlier to cover the feeder march of Root Cause, a coalition of South Florida workers, primarily immigrants, who, among other things, are pursuing a boycott of Taco Bell for not raising wages in three generations. I’d parked my pickup, full of the sorts of unidentifiable items associated with life on the road, in a parking deck a block from my hotel, in anticipation of checking in several hours later when the Chapel Hill contingent arrived. My smoothie idyll, which was unfolding on the same corner as the parking deck, came to an abrupt end as I looked up to see my truck jauntily careening down the street on two wheels, kindly assisted by a tow truck.
Neatly and carefully depositing my cup in a trash can, I sauntered over uncasually to query the officers on the scene. I now saw why they had blocked the street–my truck was suspected of harboring a bomb. This intelligence was received from no less an authority than the FB of I.
Over the next two days of efforts to retrieve my vehicle, the bomb story was downgraded to suspicious package and finally to suspicious vehicle. I had turned out not to be a bomb-carrying journalist after all. Imagine my relief. My joy turned to despair, if not anger–OK, anger–when the car was returned to me with both door windows smashed along with the padlocks on the camper top and all my possessions thoroughly if not carefully mixed. My files, so meticulously organized and placed in boxes, were, in a word, defiled.
Since my computer had been in the truck all this time, I was unable to file stories with my news service. This was minor suffering compared to that of my colleagues who were shot with rubber bullets and fraudulently arrested. Still, valuable lessons can be learned. If you plan to be in the vicinity of a demonstration against a creeping fascist organization masquerading as a democracy, get a normal-looking car. With no windows. Better yet, leave trade policy, war and other such arcana to the experts. They know what they’re doing, along with what you’re doing. Or might want to be doing. After you find out what they’re doing.