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After Miami FTAA protests...
Judge denounces police crackdown

By Elizabeth Schulte | January 9, 2004 | Page 2

"A DISGRACE for the community." That's how a Florida circuit judge described police conduct at demonstrations against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) summit in Miami in mid-November. Judge Richard Margolius, who attended the protests, decided that he couldn't help but speak out--even though he was presiding over the cases of arrested protesters.

During the anti-FTAA demonstrations, police went on a rampage, arresting 231 people. Since then, at least 27 misdemeanors charges have been dropped. In court, Margolius said he saw "no less than 20 felonies committed by police officers."

"Pretty disgraceful, what I saw with my own eyes," Margolius said. "And I have always supported the police during my entire career. This was a real eye-opener." Margolius said that he would probably have to remove himself from further cases involving the protests. "I probably would have been arrested myself if it had not been for a police officer who recognized me," he said.

The judge also questioned how much the "whole episode" cost taxpayers. "There were police officers from every agency--I couldn't believe the sheer numbers," he said.

Two citizens' panels have scheduled a meeting on January 15 to hear complaints about police conduct during the protests. Amnesty International, the AFL-CIO and the United Steelworkers of America have called for independent probes.

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