A filmmaker and pro-free trade businessman is questioning why he was shot by Miami police with a beanbag weapon during free trade talks when he was on the sidewalk with other media, reports the Miami Herald. It happened on Nov. 20, 2003, the bloodiest day of protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit. A local commercial filmmaker named Carl Kesser found himself caught between heavily armed police and retreating protesters. Kesser, 57, was unprotected. He steadied his video camera atop a concrete sidewalk planter and ducked behind the planter for cover. Miami Police Chief John Timoney rode his bicycle onto the south sidewalk. The police line began to move, and so did Kesser, “running for my life.” Suddenly, blood spattered across Kesser’s lens. A “drag stabilized” beanbag had torn through the skin over his cheekbone and kept moving, lodging under the outer edge of his eyebrow. Two months later, the right side of his face remains partially paralyzed and his right eyelid droops. A bandage covers part of his ear and the raw slash where 35 stitches closed a golf ball-size hole. His days on camera are over.
Kesser said he went downtown “to do a pro-FTAA thing — a `feel good piece’ … “I figured I’d show how the police handled this.”
Lida Rodriguez-Taseff of the Miami chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says, “What you saw in Miami was police taking aim at the media and innocent bystanders.” The ACLU represents Kesser, who has not yet filed a lawsuit.
Sgt. Anthony Utset, Timoney’s senior executive assistant, said that only SWAT team members used beanbags during FTAA. Utset acknowledged that Kesser “was not a protester or a threat. . . . I’m confident it was definitely done accidentally.”
A journalist on trhe scene is not so sure. “It turned into a real shooting gallery,” he said. “There were no protesters and only media.”