The comedian David Cross once remarked
that our country must be in trouble because we have to read other
countries’ newspapers to find out what is going on in our own
nation. Last Saturday, community activists convened at a small
house on the west side of Ann Arbor to witness video footage
compiled by independent journalists of the police brutality at the
Free Trade Agreement of the Americas conference in Miami last
month. The footage, and the lack of media exposure of what actually
happened, is living proof that our country’s media is
currently divorced from our Founding Fathers’ vision of a
scrutinizing press that would constantly keep the public informed
about the imperfections of its leaders in order to keep democracy
afloat.

Kate Green

Here are just a few crimes caught on video by journalists at the
Independent Media Center that mainstream media completely
ignored:

– A police barricade informed a crowd of protesters that if it
did not disperse within two minutes, they would be arrested. The
crowd, putting discretion before valor, complied by rotating 180
degrees, and walking away chanting, “we are
dispersing.” After a period blatantly under two minutes, the
police tackled the protesters from behind and arrested them for
failure to disperse.

– When police pinned down a nonviolent protester with a broken
hand, his fellow protesters tried to inform the police that he was
injured. Subsequently, the police used tasers to quell their
message. The tasers shoot a cord with a pin that penetrates the
victim’s skin to employ the shock. The removal process is
unbearably painful, and it is difficult to remove the pin without
causing excessive bodily injury.

– A trihawked protester and self-described “Alcoholic
against the FTAA” was pelted with 20 rubber bullets for
flicking off a police barricade.

In addition, there are accusations of sexual harassment and
assault by police against female and transgendered protesters. This
footage will most likely be used as court evidence in upcoming
lawsuits against the Miami police.

As someone who has witnessed the infamous clashes between
Catholic civil rights activists and Ulster Unionist paramilitary
huns in Northern Ireland, I must say that the collective behavior
of Miami’s riot cops was relatively egregious but undoubtedly
beyond the legal framework.

In the interests of full disclosure, two University activists
who were arrested while dispersing are close friends of mine, so my
emotional investment in this matter leaves me with some bias, but
that does not excuse the fact that their patriotic rights of
dissent were trampled upon by employees of the state.

But what has most tragically been violated in this ordeal is our
right to be informed about our government. Mainstream television
and newspaper coverage from that week was shallow, and footage
coming from the police perspective dwarfed any minuscule view that
the police may have actually done something wrong. Because most
Americans are divorced from the political process in America, it is
their fundamental right to be informed about all aspects of their
government, the good and the bad. It is essential to democracy that
the media bring the problems of government to light. So when the
media are biased in favor of the state, and information about
abuses of power are hidden from the populace, our democracy is in
trouble.

What else didn’t you hear? While Bush and his business
partners where salivating over the potential profits their FTAA
policies would yield, countries like Brazil took a hard stance
against them and refused to back down fearing what the FTAA would
do to them and their way of life. Bush’s dream did not come
to life in Miami that week. But you didn’t hear about this
because the only North American daily newspaper that reported this
that I could find was the Toronto Globe and Mail. David
Cross’ humorous remark is tragically sad and true.

The debate surrounding our mainstream media should not revolve
around accusations of them being liberal or conservative. Our
media’s duty, in the interests of the democratic process, is
to hold our elected officials, regardless of party affiliations,
and their policies accountable by proliferating access to all
information. Our media are failing, the parameters of the First
Amendment are becoming more and more meaningless and without
change, our democracy will revert into the system our Founding
Fathers fought against.

Paul can be reached at
“mailto:aspaul@umich.edu”>aspaul@umich.edu.

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