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Here in Miami it is warm and sunny. There are leaves on the trees. Perhaps this city has the potential to be quite a pleasant place in late November, but not this year. This year, the City of Miami is courting the hemispheres trade representatives and business elite by barricading the downtown core and militarizing the streets.

Yesterday the cops were getting antsy and bored, so a squad of 30 or so bicycle cops stopped two young women walking their bikes and little trailers filled with posters they were selling. The women were surrounded, searched, and the police took away some of their gear. Since I was walking behind, I stopped to say hi and then stood with the young women. In time, after all their posturing, picture-taking and reporting, the cops also took my picture, took my passport, and filled out a field report on me, called in my information and took down my particulars. They rushed against some on-lookers, set up a mobile fence with their bicycles, and hurried away the on-lookers. A couple of street lawyers found us and took their own report of police harassment.

Later that night at a free concert, Billy Bragg, the British working class singer, remarked on the great Christmas these guys are going to get after all this over time. They should thank the labour movement, he said, for fighting for the right to time-and-a-half.

In the night I woke up with the hotel room shaking, imagined a tank going down the road and went back to sleep. Dont even think about it came a voice over some portable police loudspeaker. No one in the building could sleep past 6 am this morning. The helicopters came early, the riot squad followed up.

This morning Donalda Macdonald, a National Executive Board Member and President of CUPE P.E.I gave a brilliant speech at a forum on the impact of free trade on public services, to a packed room of workers from all over the Americas. She got an enthusiastic response as she spoke of struggle and set backs, as well as our victories and commitment to fight-back and build our movements within our countries and across borders.

After the talk we made our way back to our hotel, but were not permitted to enter. There were tanks in the street, so I hadnt imagined it after all. Helicopters swarmed overhead, intimidating the crowd assembled in the amphitheatre for a pre-march rally. We could only enter after waiting about an hour in the baking sun and asphalt, 8 at a time, bags searched, metal detectors, rows after rows of riot squads, thousands of people left outside.

We heard music and speeches, handed out a few hundred CUPE whistles and met our Canadian brothers and sisters under the CLC-Common Frontiers Banner. Brother Hassan Yussuff, Secretary-Treasurer of the CLC spoke from the podium. He asked us to consider how much repression is needed to get these deals passed. What is it that they are doing in there, behind closed doors anyway?, he asked.

Amidst a couple of thousand Steelworkers Rapid Response Teams, The CAW flying squads and Dolphins Against the FTAA, and together with the Retirees Alliance of South Florida, we marched in the streets of Miami. There were young workers in their khakis, Vegetables against the FTAA: Squash the State and Beet the System. We marched with the Communists and the radical cheerleaders. We marched beside hundreds of Americans singing new words to an old Beatles tune: We all live in a military state, a military state, a military state as they passed by hundreds of riot police 5 rows deep. No Way, FTAA, and This is what democracy looks like.

It was a peaceful march, joyful even, until the police decided to put on a macho show and corral a few young people outside our hotel after the march. The T.V. said that someone had set fire to a few placards, but I couldnt see any evidence of that. All I know was that they started in with the rubber bullets, horses, tear gas, pepper spray and held the rest of the demonstrators in the ampitheatre. They brought out their water-tanks, personnel carriers and had the helicopters stationed overhead. From my hotel room I estimated 2000 riot police, lined up against a half a dozen young people, some retired workers trying to get to their buses and about 20 journalists.

That was a couple of hours ago. Now the helicopters are still flying overhead. We are effectively locked down into our hotel. Brothers and sisters trying to leave for evening flights havent been able to. The restaurants are closed and all the workers were sent home hours ago.

We know what democracy looks like, and this is not it. I talked to a U.S. trade unionist who asked me what we Canadians must be thinking of the U.S. after all this. He himself thinks they are getting pretty close to a fascist state where no kind of dissent is allowed whatsoever.

But we take heart in knowing that the U.S. and our own Canadian government wanted a full, comprehensive agreement on trade and investment, and they will not get it. On a day where thousands of people are demonstrating against the U.S. president in London, and thousands more are demonstrating against the Presidents own Free Trade agenda in his brothers state, we know that the opposition having an impact. Brazil and Argentina were able to de-rail the project for the time being. This must be celebrated, and we must be vigilant.

One final thought: In the recent Bill passed by the U.S. Congress granting 87 billion dollars for Iraq, there was one line which allocated money for the militarization of Miami during this week. What does free trade have to do with US militarism? It would appear the two go hand in glove.

As for Dont even think about it Well, what do they take us for?