The Miami Model

After watching the documentary in class about the 2003 FTAA protests in Miami, I called my parents to learn more about the protests. I barely remember what I had for breakfast so no surprise that I don’t remember the FTAA protests that mobilized when I was 12.

The conversation with my mom was brief. She remembered the protests but did not have a lot to say. We live close to my high school in the suburbs of Miami, which is located in the south, and the protests happened downtown. My dad’s reaction was unexpected but albeit not totally surprising. My dad worked in a bank in downtown Miami at that time meaning he had to cross the protest traffic and was affected by the protests more than my mother. He started off by saying that there were riots happening around the Intercontinental between the people and the police. He mentioned he had to go through two or three lines of police to get through the office. The Miami Model of police protection affected everyone. The major crowd control tactics used by the police were implemented on all Miami citizens.

My dad, not a big fan of riots, said something very interesting. “I think there was a series of riots around the world and people in Miami were copying. It was a bloody nuisance because of extra tight police security. Innocent hard working people suffered as a result with some people not being able to go to work or go home. This kind of thing goes untold and it’s always the rioters that people feel sorry for and not the ordinary person that suffered the results.”

A couple of things that are important to know about my dad: he lived in Brazil for a good portion of his life where he met and married my mother in Sao Paulo. He worked at a bank. He is originally from Scotland (which explains the “bloody.”) We subscribe to the Miami Herald, which according to the documentary framed the protests as biased against the protestors. He believes the Miami Herald is not the most reputable newspaper yet continues to read it.

I think its odd that my father who would know most about the FTAA due to his job and his loyalty to South America would not pay attention to the cause of the riots occurring in his own backyard. Almost all of South America was opposed to the FTAA because it only really benefited the United States. What is most interesting to me is that my dad was clearly affected by the media framing disenfranchising the protest but because of his first hand experience with police contact, he acknowledged the absurdity of the police’s “Miami Model.”

At the same time, my dad acknowledged the other protests around the world. Those were legitimate but according to him, Miami was “copying.” I wonder if the Miami Herald discredited the Miami protests because the protestors were fighting for their native country in South America and against the United States, the country they were currently residing in. Why would a US based publication support protests against trade negotiations that would benefit the United States?  For objectivity, sure, but the reality is that most newspapers are not objective.

My father’s comments against the protest can’t be taken too seriously because he is biased against Miami citizens but that is a completely different issue. What’s most important to me is how he believes the media should have framed police interactions. From his perspective, the media framed the “Miami model” as being harmful to the protestors. According to him, some newspaper publications did not completely discredit the protestors against FTAA. He complained mostly about the lack of media attention on the working citizens of Miami. If the entirety of downtown Miami was shut down for a couple of days, that means a lot of workers lost a considerable amount of payment. It’s interesting to me that the documentary and the media did not seem to mention the effect of the police and protestors on the uninvolved worker.

I think the take home message of the documentary and my father is how harmful the police interaction was. I’m not sure what the impact of the Miami protest actually was on the FTAA. The countries in the negotiation did not agree with the United States and did not sign the FTAA so I’m not sure what the protests actually accomplished. I do believe most people will remember how the police reacted and how the media framed that. To my father, the protest was unimportant. The police were the hassle. Peaceful protests were quick to turn into violence that affected all of the Miami citizens who worked or lived downtown.

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