Miami Police Outline Plans For November Trade Meetings
By Susan Stabley
Miami police say security plans for the November free-trade meetings will allow demonstrators to protest and downtown workers to get to their jobs.
Organizers expect 20,000 to 100,000 activists – from labor unions to environmental groups opposing the creation of a free-trade zone among 34 nations of the Western Hemisphere – to gather during negotiations on the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas.
The Eighth Americas Business Forum, where local leaders will provide input on the pact, is scheduled for Nov. 17-19 at James L. Knight Center, with the FTAA meetings following Nov. 20-21 at InterContinental Miami.
First details of the plan to secure downtown Miami were released Friday morning at a public information meeting.
Miami Police Chief John Timoney opened up the informational forum with a quick recap of his experience with events that garnered large protests, including the 1992 Democratic Convention when he was with the New York City Police, and 2000 Republican National Convention when he was Philadelphia’s police chief.
"I know a little about these events," said Chief Timoney, who was on the New York police force during the 1992 Democratic National Convention and chief in Philadelphia during the 2000 Republic convention. "I know the challenges ahead of us in November. Relax. You’re in good hands."
Police said that though they are not sure how many demonstrators will turn out, they expect only 2% to be violent.
The events will important to the city’s image, said Chief Timoney. Miami is trying to become the headquarters of the FTAA if it is approved.
Police are prepared to make mass arrests if demonstrators "escalate their actions or activities from a passive-resistant posture," said deputy chief Frank Fernandez. He said officers wearing helmets and shields could be called on to move crowds out of the area.
Police plan to keep officers at fixed posts at hotels and other key locations, he said. The Port of Miami will have extra protection to prevent disruption and police plan to increase bike patrols to use as a barricade to hold back large crowds of protestors, he said.
Garbage will be picked up on regular days though earlier than usual in the morning, city officials said. Builders and contractors were asked to clear debris from worksites that demonstrators could use as weapons or to cause destruction.
An official from the Miami Parking Authority said parking in the area would be limited but free that week.
Metrorail service is expected to operate normally though the Metromover schedule could be changed. Two-car trams are expected to accommodate additional passenger traffic. Some Metrobuses will have new locations for stops.
Police are comparing plans for road closures to those during the Grand Prix Americas street race. Biscayne Boulevard will be closed from the Miami River to Northeast 14th Street. Use of the Brickell Bridge will be limited, with northbound traffic from the Brickell area on US 1 rerouted west on Southwest Seventh Street to the South Miami Avenue bridge.
Special routes will be created for access to Hyatt Regency Miami, Clarion Hotel & Suites, Wachovia Financial Center and other businesses along Southeast Second Street, Miami Center, Hotel Intercontinental and JW Marriott Miami Hotel.