Sporadic clashes between protesters and a muscular task force of police flared yesterday in the heart of Miami, but most demonstrators found peaceful ways to express their grievances against a proposed free-trade pact, the Miami Herald reports.
Apart from several small trash fires set by a few protesters, no significant acts of vandalism or property damage were reported. Police said about 8,000-10,000 people participated in the demonstrations. At least 12 activists were treated at Jackson Memorial Hospital for minor injuries. About 125 protesters reported to an activist medical center — at least 15 with welts or head wounds caused by rubber bullets, 10 with wounds inflicted by police batons and more than 100 with skin burns caused by pepper gas. Three law enforcement officers were treated for minor injuries. Authorities reported at least 141 arrests, mostly on charges of trespassing, resisting an officer, disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice.
Miami Police Chief John Timoney said, “I thought the officers showed remarkable restraint. These are outsiders coming in to terrorize and vandalize our city.” Police arrested 1,300 people and 570 people, respectively, during similarly motivated demonstrations in Washington, D.C., in 2002 and Seattle in 1999. The Seattle riots caused $20 million in damage.
With one day of scheduled protests left, Timoney said extensive training and strong cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies helped police deal with the flare-ups. “We had almost six months of training,” he said. “In Seattle, they didn’t have that.” In Miami, the heavy presence of black-uniformed, riot-equipped police apparently had the desired effect: The hit-and-run skirmishes were more fleeting and less incendiary than some feared.