Friday, December 05, 2003

Why isn't this an important national news story?: The AFL-CIO calls for a criminal investigation of Miami police. Thanks in part to a national media largely gorging on a diet of Scott Petersen and Michael Jackson (with occasional attention to Iraq), there doesn't seem to be much interest in police attacks on peaceful union members -- many of them elderly -- during the free trade protests in Miami last month. The national media didn't pay attention then, and they're still not noticing it now, despite mounting evidence of widespread abuses.

Locally, the boosterish hometown papers have also been giving the quasi-police state a virtual whitewash, with the exception of Miami Herald columnist Jim Defede (see my previous postings) and Miami New Times. Their latest accounts include a horrifying account of police attacking a medical treatment clinic and a new overview article on the wildly divergent claims by police and unions about what happened. All this isn't meant to downplay the real violence -- thrown rocks, torn-down fences, trash fires -- generated by a relatively small group of anarchists. But the importance of the Miami events to the rest of the country is this: the police tactics used here are now being dubbed the "Miami model," because there wasn't the large-scale damage seen in Seattle in 1999, and it is now being promoted as a way for other cities to confront large-scale protests of any kind. But the cost to the Constitution -- and the health and safety of peaceful protesters -- is far too high for the "Miami model" to become the template for police responses elsewhere in the country. (See my earlier postings on Nov. 23 and Dec. 1, to learn about troubling accounts of law-abiding citizens being attacked, shot [with rubber bullets] and pepper-sprayed by police, and often arrested on trumped-up charges.)

It isn't only because of an entertainment-driven, profit-hungry media culture that these issues are being slighted. In addition, with the decline of labor unions in the workforce and the lower status given what used to be called labor reporters, few reporters at major dailies or broadcast outlets specialize in union concerns. At the same time, when competing stories are far more sensationalistic, anything having to do with "free trade" is doomed to be viewed as a dull-but-worthy snoozefest, unless there are major Seattle-style window-smashing property violence and attacks on police by black-masked anarchists. So, since police overkill and trampling on constitutional rights (and, literally, the protesters themselves) meant that such violence was largely shut down, there's been little interest in paying attention to the police violence unleashed on protesters. When the Miami model comes to your hometown, though, the media neglect on this issue could come back to haunt the citizens of other cities.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?