By STEFANIE MILLER
Last year it was N30 in Seattle. This year it was N16 in Cincinnati, where hundreds of activists gathered for three days of civil actions and events to expose and oppose the meetings of the TABD on November 16-18. "This is just the beginning," said Susan Knight of the Coalition for a Humane Economy (CHE), an organizer of the events. "We showed the TABD they can't hide their actions. They will never come back to Cincinnati."
TABD does not stand for Truly Appalling Backroom Deals, but it should. The Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) is a group of powerful US and European business executives meeting with government leaders to work on removing "barriers to trade." Environmental, consumer safety and worker protection laws are all standing in the way of increasing their profits. At a kick-off rally Thursday afternoon, Baldemar Velasquez, president of Farm Labor Organizing Committee told the demonstrators, "What you're doing here today, what you did in Seattle, is you're creating a conscience for those who create wealth."
On Friday morning, Cincinnati citizens watched from the sidewalks and office windows as protesters braved the cold in a peaceful march through downtown with signs and chants such as "People Before Profits." Joe Williams, an Indiana-Purdue University student from Indianapolis said, "Judging from the ratio of flip-offs to thumbs-ups, it seems as though citizen response to our cause was good." More than 100 police in full riot gear, some on horseback, guarded the TABD meeting at the Omni Netherland Hotel, as marchers filled Fountain Square to hear some amazing speakers. Alliance for Democracy member Dick Middendorf approached the mounted police officers. "I politely went up to them and in a loud voice thanked them for protecting us marchers -- from those criminals meeting over in the hotel, protecting us from those violent men who use their power to destroy democracy to destroy the environment to run sweatshops. All but one of the seven mounted police smiled [at] the irony of the statement."
After the rally the police made their first arrests, and the mainstream media put their focus on the "violence." Labor held a picket line at Union Terminal where TABD Conference members were dining. Middendorf said, "As I walked in the labor picket in front of the police I walked slowly and looked at each officer in the eye, and waved my hand in greeting -- the majority looked through me or glowered at me -- The brainwashing had worked on most of the officers. I felt so sorry for them -- dehumanized so that they could not respond to an elderly person marching in a picket before them protesting injustice. Their eyes and ears were closed to the truth. So threatened, so paranoid, so ready to use violence."
On Saturday, protests began with a Rally at Fountain Square and a Pig Parade to unveil "pig puppets" representing abusive corporations like Chiquita Banana and Procter & Gamble. Police stepped up the arrests and to get onto Fountain Square you had to be frisked. CHE's Steve Schumacher said, "This amount of police response is totally, totally outrageous -- we have been peaceful demonstrators." Joe Williams witnessed shocking police brutality when "a protester had a stick as a flag-pole. The police proceeded to roughly arrest him. I [saw] the woman standing next to [him] go into a fetal position as the cops lifted her into the air and slammed her down into the waist-high granite walls. Gonna stay in my brain for a while. I was at [protests in] DC and Philly, but this is the first time I've personally seen the cops unnecessarily attacking other non-violent activists."
The courage and dedication of the protesters paid off. According to an article by Edward Alden in the Financial Times, "The protests have clearly rattled the confidence of both political and business leaders, who spent much of the two days debating how better to sell to the public the benefits of freer trade." As John Zeh of Ohio Valley Indy Media Center said, "We WON in Cincinnati. Great local press coverage of our issues. Establishment of a solid Indy Media Center. Embarrassing police overreaction. With Solidarity, no matter our numbers, [we] won big time here."
Stefanie Miller is Secretary of the National Alliance for Democracy and a founding member of the Indiana Chapter. For more information see www.inalliance.com