The Madison (WI) IMC: Activists consider Miami ramifications by Andrew Broman – an interesting story that tells of an educational/discussion session in Madison that was conducted by participants in the Miami anti-FTAA protests.The story raises some good questions about the effectiveness of confrontational protest tactics in these crazy times.

Here’s one part that raises some good questions:

    Miami was a chaotic scene, activists said. Complicating matters was the police’s use of undercover officers disguised as protesters. These officers, nicknamed snatchers, dragged suspected protest leaders behind police lines and arrested them, according to several activists who said they either witnessed these tactics or heard of them.One man, wearing blonde dreadlocks, said he saw some activists save their comrade from arrest after an officer grabbed him. Another activist rushed in and did a drop kick on the cop. He lost his grip, and the activists retrieved their friend, dreadlocks guy said. It was a small victory, he said.

    During their nearly three-hour meeting, activists cited several of what they considered successes.

    Perhaps activists accomplished the most during the days leading up to the protests when they went door-to-door in downtown and in some neighborhoods explaining why free trade hurts economies and why the people should control their food production.

The part about police infiltration of the ranks of protestors is insane but not unheard of. (After a semester of Criminal Procedure I am not surprised at any crooked thing that cops will do. It seems as if our system is designed to not only permit but rather encourage lies and deception by cops to citizens.) What I found more disturbing though was how the police were able put the protestors off-balance (if you read on in the story you read how less disciplined protestors began to throw things at the cops and like… in a sense adopting the violent tactics of the oppressors). I’m not sure what the answer is, but I do know the movement needs more discipline in non-violent methods. The power of the lunch counter sit-ins in the Civil Rights movement were how those protesting refused to lower themselves to the standards of those who were abusing them, they refuse to hit back if they were hit, they refused to spit back if they were spat on. They refused to back down but they never struck back. That ethic seems to be missing in at least some elements of the movement.

I also found hope though in the last paragraph of this story where it tells of activists going out into the neighborhoods to tell ordinary folks why free trade and corporate agriculture are bad for them. This is what is so desperately needed today… community organizing, and frankly we need more activist energy in rural America and in urban minority communities. (this is one of the reasons why I think God put me in Oklahoma. Life was good in Austin but in many ways too good. It was frankly too easy to do the right thing there. It’s a lot harder to organize for justice in rural Oklahoma.)

Anyway I think the story is a good sign. It is only oppressive regimes that are afraid of frank and difficult questions. Healthy movements for justice on the other hand should have the courage to question themselves and to seek to do things better (even if it means changing and doing what was not done before)