Law enforcement agencies in the Miami area have stockpiled bicycles and riot helmets, snacks and Gatorade, reports the Miami Herald. They’ve rented an eight-foot security fence and water cannons. They’ll set up a makeshift jail. They’ve been training for months.
More than 40 agencies have assembled a massive security plan for the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit next week that may attract tens of thousands of protesters. About 2,500 police officers will be deployed on city streets near the Hotel Inter-Continental, where 34 nations will discuss free trade.
Most demonstrators will likely express their opposition to free trade with marches, rallies, speeches, and signs. A smaller contingent of violent protesters may try to cause enough chaos to disrupt the summit.
Officials are guided partly by what has occurred at other international economic meetings, including the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, where street protesters set fires, smashed store windows, and caused an estimated $2 million in damage. Miami Police Chief John Timoney will draw on his experience as police commissioner in Philadelphia during the 2000 Republican National Convention, when police and protesters clashed, and Timoney was accused of wielding a heavy hand.
Yesterday, Miami city leaders criticized the county police department’s arrests of three anti-globalization activists, saying the action could inflame tempers ahead the summit, the Herald said. “The county is very aware that they really stepped out of bounds here,” City Manager Joe Arriola said. County police said they suspected the three might be burglars because they were walking on Veterans Day, when stores were closed, and were carrying backpacks with metal tubing and wires visible.
“They wanted to be victims and [county police] sure made them victims,” Arriola said. “Miami police would never have fallen for that trap. We’ve been training them and training them not to be drawn into that kind of conflict.”
Like the Pentagon in the Iraq war, the Miami Police Department is offering to “embed” reporters in police squads, the Associated Press reports. Timoney said his embedding plan would take journalists a step further than a traditional ride-along by placing them on the front lines of the protest.
It may be the biggest use of embedded reporters for a large-scale U.S. police operation. “This is not the case of a camera crew or reporter showing up just as something is breaking,” Timoney said. “It’s not just a snapshot. You get the whole before, during and after. You get a clearer picture and a better story. I think we win in the long run.”