Demonstrations will test limits of free speech
If this agreement were in the public interest, why is it so
hidden from the public?
By Travis Metcalfe
Daily Texan Columnist
that the University administration is about to make an important
decision that will have a dramatic impact on your future. Suppose they
have invited the Board of Regents, a few legislators and some prominent
business leaders to participate in the decision making process, but no
students, faculty or staff will be included in the discussion.
Outraged, the campus mobilizes to protest the secret negotiations,
knowing that the outcome is likely to enrich those present inside the
meeting at the expense of everyone else.
that on the day of the meeting you arrive at the University, only to
find that the campus has been surrounded by a 10-foot-high barbed-wire
fence with security check-points manned by UT police officers. They are
dressed in full-body armor and are brandishing billy clubs, pepper
spray and tear gas. Intimidated yet?
officers inform you that the campus is closed to anyone who doesn't
have a security clearance badge and, if you have a problem with that,
you are free to protest in the designated area: Waterloo Park (and even
there, no bullhorns are allowed). You argue that the administrators who
have erected this security zone, and who are making secret deals on the
inside, will never see or hear your protests from so far away. Of
course you are right, but this guy has pepper spray and he's not afraid
to use it.
If you are outraged by this scenario, then
pay close attention to what's about to go down in Quebec City, Canada
this weekend. Representatives from 34 countries will gather on April 20
for the Summit of the Americas to put the finishing touches on a secret
trade pact that even most members of Congress don't know anything about.
so-called Free Trade Area of the Americas that would be established by
this agreement combines some of the worst elements of the North
American Free Trade Agreement with the anti-democratic structure of the
World Trade Organization to govern trade and investments across the
entire Western Hemisphere.
The FTAA will maximize
corporate profits at the expense of workers, human health, the
environment and democracy. For example, it will prevent Brazil from
manufacturing inexpensive generic versions of drugs to treat poor
people infected with HIV by extending U.S.-style monopoly patent
protections to all 34 member nations. They call this "free" trade?
who take the time to educate themselves about the pact will quickly
recognize it for what it is, and oppose it. Tens of thousands of such
citizens will converge on Quebec this weekend to support an alternative
vision of globalization that benefits everyone, not just the CEO's of
giant corporations and the politicians who pocket their generous
Unfortunately, there will be
many obstacles keeping concerned citizens from getting their message
across. There have already been numerous reports through the
Independent Media Center (www.indymedia.org) of Canadian border
police performing illegal searches and denying entry to demonstration
organizers. Even those who make it across the border find that several
square miles of downtown Quebec where the meetings will take place have
been fenced off, and the 5,000 people who live inside the region have
been given ID badges and security passes to enter.
Canadian police have budgeted $10 million a day for security during the
Summit. They have rented all vacant spaces inside the perimeter, and
reserved every hotel room to keep the rabble out. They have purchased
several new water cannons and plan to weld shut all sewer entrances.
They have even emptied out a local prison to make room for anyone who
gets too unruly.
All of these preparations leave you to
wonder why an economic summit requires this level of isolation. If this
trade agreement were really in the public interest, it wouldn't need to
take place deep inside a security perimeter.
be a rally against the FTAA this Friday at 5:30 p.m. on the south steps
of the state Capitol. To learn more about the FTAA go to www.stopftaa.org.
Metcalfe is a doctoral student in the Department of Astronomy