Readers respond to "'This Is Not America,'" by Michelle Goldberg, and "Fill 'er Up -- With Taxpayer Dollars," by Mark Follman.

By Salon Staff
Published December 18, 2003 10:23PM (EST)

[Read Michelle Goldberg's account of the FTAA protests in Miami.]

I was in Miami to rally against the FTAA. I have to give Michelle Goldberg credit for writing the most honest and true account of what happened in the streets that I've seen in the mainstream press. On that day I went to the rallies and was lucky enough only to be pepper-sprayed. Around me I saw peaceful demonstrators, young and old alike, being clubbed, tasered, and shot in the face with rubber bullets. Even the journalists and legal observers who were there seemed to be deliberately targeted.

The thing that saddens me is that I wish the article could have been written while it was happening -- the networks and papers were all there to cover it, but it barely was mentioned as a footnote. I am in no way a conspiracy theorist, but I wonder when I look at the events of Nov. 20. On the same day of the FTAA protests, and the major protests in the U.K. during Bush's state visit, the one image to dominate the headlines was Michael Jackson. How did that happen?

Goldberg's article has breathed new life into this story, which should be on the tip of all Americans' tongues. It's a shame that the irresponsible and reckless Department of Homeland Security has decided to treat American citizens expressing their First Amendment rights as if they were terrorists.

-- Scott Beibin

Of the many, many things that horrify me about the abuse of police power and its arbitrary violence documented in your article, one is the automatic equation of "anarchist" with "violent." I've been an anarchist, of a left-collectivist bent, ever since I understood what the word meant. Anarchism is simply a belief that power hierarchies, by nature, produce inequality and abuse.

Perhaps some of the stupid minority of people who throw things and break windows call themselves anarchists. Perhaps the police and their bosses simply find that a convenient scary label. The proper term for that sort of behavior is "nihilist," and the authorities have been conflating the two groups since the days of czarist Russia.

The struggle doesn't just take place on the streets. It's also in our minds and our language. Just as gays, blacks and women have found the power of reclaiming the language used to denigrate them, so we in political struggles need to reclaim our words of power. "Anarchist" should be a badge of honor and not surrendered to hooligans and thugs on either side of the barricades.

-- Marc Pengryffyn

I am not real sympathetic with Salon's article on the Miami demonstrations. The anti-globalization crowd has a well-earned reputation for property destruction and general mayhem wherever they go. Remember Quebec City and Genoa during the G8 summits? These were examples of a lack of police resources and the failure by the police to use overwhelming force. I applaud the Miami police department for its willingness to use force and also for its restraint. The demonstrators achieved their objectives by getting arrested and bragging rights about their injuries. So the show moves on to the next city.

As far as the loss of political freedoms in this country: That is left-wing hype and agitprop. I'll stand up and complain about the loss of civil liberties if Michelle Goldberg and others like her can no longer publish their ideas or views on what happened in Miami and similarly I can no longer respond accordingly.

-- Rick Fogarty

The first installment of Salon's "Lost Liberties" series is indeed a disturbing illustration of America's dissolving civil liberties. I think, however, what is more frightening is the utter lack of concern most Americans feel toward situations such as this.

Yes, undoubtedly there will be an outpouring of anger and resentment from Salon readers and Noam Chomsky; but these voices come from the new "fringe." For, where once the ugliness of McCarthy and Wallace ranted and raved, now breeds the liberal left, the truly compassionate. Civil liberties are things of the past -- hangovers from my father's generation that have retreated into the powerlessness of cyberspace or the prairies of Canada. Americans, for the most part, don't give a shit if someone's civil liberties are trampled. They don't care if a man is beaten to death by cops. It doesn't bother them that every keystroke is a fingerprint recorded in John Ashcroft's ledger.

Bold statements in fifth-grade English are all the rage now, and George Bush is the spokesperson. Perhaps the best thing that could happen to our country would be the sudden revocation of the Constitution, massive public demonstrations and riots, followed by all-out civil war. Personally, I am a firm believer of the maxim "Fight fire with fire." The so-called compassionate conservative bunch has decided to take over our country and our rights, and they bear arms in attempting to do so. Let's fight back! Beat up a skinhead! Spit on a Republican! Insult a housewife! Don't whine about things! Change them! The Bush folks did.

-- Darren Utukumbok

Reading the stories about the retirees being viciously mistreated in Miami reminded me of a scene in Quebec City, where I was an amateur videographer during the previous FTAA protest. There, one of the "raging grannies," an octogenarian at the very least, presented one of the officers with a flower. Within seconds, the military-grade tear gas that was in use in Quebec exploded around her. It was only upon reviewing the tape that I realized that it was an officer mere feet from the elderly flower-bearer who had lobbed the gas grenade.

"This is not [North] America," certainly. But moreover, is this democracy? We are talking about people who could have been killed by the actions of the police, whether it was the "knee to the back" that Ben received or the gassing that I witnessed. The criminalization of dissent has gone beyond the pale when police officers are placing the lives of fragile people in jeopoardy like this.

-- Leigh Honeywell

[Read Mark Follman's interview with Henry Waxman.]

I think anyone should be outraged at what U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman says about Halliburton. Not that we should be surprised. Halliburton was also the prime contractor during Vietman War, which we now know was also a war based on false premises.

What surprises me is that nobody's doing a damn thing about it. After two terms of brutal investigations of the Clinton administration, the Democrats are behaving like whipped little kittens, afraid of their own shadow. We need a war, all right -- we need a war against those that would use the U.S. government for their own profit at the expense of the integrity and interests of our beloved country. If we don't, then every president from now on will be tempted to involve the United States in a war, just so he can enrich his friends and point to his detractors as unpatriotic! Clinton gave us peace and prosperity. Let us be true to that legacy.

-- Henry Harris

In "Fill-er Up With Taxpayer Dollars" the truth is made painfully clear:

  1. Bush is a crook.
  2. Dick Cheney's cronies at Halliburton are crooks.
  3. The American people are paying through the nose and the White House doesn't give a damn.

Clearly it's time to throw Bush and Cheney out,and put Halliburton execs on trial for defrauding the American and Iraqi peoples. Enough is enough is enough.

-- Frances Burmeister

Important as removing George Bush from the White House is, the interview with Henry Waxman also demonstrates how vital it is for the Democrats to take back at least one house of Congress. We have a situation in which the "red" states have fewer and fewer people but still send two senators and at least one congressman to Washington. Democrats must develop a strategy -- and the spine to carry it out -- to win back the Congress.

Just imagine what the Republicans would be doing about this kind of information now coming out about Halliburton, if Bill Clinton were still president.

-- Daniel Greenbaum

Salon Staff

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