Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Covering Code Pink in Little Havana (Part 3)

There are three television news reports about the last Code Pink demonstration available for review. One from CBS4 news (English) and two Spanish-language reports by Telemundo51 and Noticias23 (Univision). I will use the same methodology used to examine the printed reports: 1) Mention of the Code Pink mission; 2) accurate description of actions directed at Code Pink in Little Havana; and 3) mention of the background and debate over Luis Posada Carriles.


The CBS4 report (by Cristina Puig) offers a very good summary of events that occurred that day (Jan. 12th). Puig says that Code Pink had the "proper permits" to demonstrate, "but were quickly chased away" when they arrived at the Versailles Restaurant, where they "didn't stand a chance" against "some 300 angry counter-protesters."

Puig mentioned that Code Pink "wants the FBI to add Posada to their list of 'Most Wanted'" and that they had other demonstrations planned, such as the one last week at the office of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The description of events was captured on video with some counter-protesters charging at the Code Pink truck and one individual ripping some fabric from their display. Puig also reports on the controversial background of Luis Posada Carriles by mentioning his immigration case, his being "sought after by Cuba and Venezuela for allegedly downing a Cuban jetliner in 1976, killing 73 passengers," and mentioning that he is an "ex-CIA agent."

Puig's report also includes good quotes by Code Pink members describing their main grievance with the inconsistency of the US on terrorism. Medea Benjamin is quoted saying: "the US government is harboring a terrorist and [Pres.] George Bush has said any country that harbors a terrorist is guilty of terrorism." Puig also includes a quote by Code Pink member Tighe Barry making a complaint directly to a Miami police officer:

"They [counter-protesters] do not have permits to carry ten foot polls and with points on the end. That I know is a fact. Now why you don't, you do not follow the rule of law. When the rule of law breaks down, Democracy breaks down. When Democracy breaks down, Anarchy takes place. And what we saw in the streets of Miami was Anarchy."

Video from different sources shows several counter-protesters carrying large Cuban flags, with the flagpole made of unknown material and of unknown length. Before the Miami FTAA protests of 2003, the City of Miami made several strict changes to the City Charter in order to regulate materials used for public demonstrations. One regulation was aimed at prohibiting "any length of metal, plastic or other similar hard of stiff material, whether hollow or solid." These regulations had several conditions for these materials, especially one stating that they "be blunt, and not pointed." But, these strict revisions to the City Charter were eventually repealed the following year after protests from several local activists (mostly citing restrictions to number of persons allowed to assemble). But, other cities today regulate certain materials, such as those used for flagpoles, for public demonstration. A Public Assembly application [PDF] from Concord, North Carolina, for example, regulates wood or plastic poles (including flagpoles) used in demonstrations demanding they be "blunt at both ends" and "less than 41 inches in length."


The reports by the local Spanish -language Univision and Telemundo networks both have glaring omissions in their reporting. Both do not meet the basic journalistic tasks that have set to review. Looking at these Spanish-language television reports, in comparison to the CBS4 report (and the print articles), reveals some interesting biases.

The Noticias23 report begins with video of the Code Pink truck arriving at the Versailles Restaurant, and counter-demonstrators charging at the truck and one individual ripping fabric from the Code Pink display. The reporter does not say that Code Pink was "chased away" like Puig from CBS4, or anything similar to being chased away, but instead simply reports that the police had to "intervene" in the protest (no other mention of aggression is mentioned). Even though there is video of counter-protesters walking into other streets nearby the Versailles Restaurant looking for the pursued Code Pink truck, the Noticias23 reporter still doesn't mention that Code Pink was chased away by the crowd. Instead, one sound bite includes a counter-protester saying: "The streets of Miami belong to us Cuban patriots!"

The Noticias23 report never mentions the mission of the Code Pink demonstration, and never mentions the controversial history of Luis Posada Carriles. I suppose Univision assumes that its viewers are already aware of the controversy, or decided that it was not important. Instead, the report questions the history of Code Pink. The reporter poses the question to its viewers:

"The real question is: who makes up and what ideas are brought by the group Code Pink?"

The reporter asks, of ALL people, Miguel Saavedra for an answer. Saavedra was caught attacking counter-protesters last January on the streets of Calle Ocho. Saavedra says that Code Pink "represents" the government of Venezuela and Cuba. This is followed by a short interview with Medea Benjamin of Code Pink saying that "we are a group of women for peace, and we're here to say that our government has a 'War on Terror,' and we're looking for terrorist all over the world." Benjamin is then cut off, leaving one with an incomplete picture of their official mission. No mention of gathering signatures for the FBI, no mention the FBI billboards, no mention of Posada's past. Instead, time is given to a counter-protester extolling Posada as a "fighter for Cuba's freedom," and estimates the counter-protest crowd at more than 500, instead of the much reported 200-300.

Interestingly, the Noticias23 report includes a brief interview with Ada Rojas, Community Relations Coordinator for the City of Miami. Rojas is shown trying to control some of the crowd (with little success), along with city police. Rojas is quoted saying: "The Cuban community like always there's lots of emotions." It's not clear what the City of Miami's Community Relations Board(CRB) mission is, but if it's anything like Miami-Dade County's CRB, then they have a lot of work to do, mainly in creating an atmosphere "free from sectarianism and prejudice." According to one report, Ada Rojas was once "in charge of a permitted event at the Miami Arena where approximately 200 people demonstrated peacefully." How lucky for them, but not for Code Pink.

Let Ada Rojas know how you feel about Code Pink's demonstration in Little Havana.


Anyway, the Telemundo51 report was much better than the Univision report. Despite not showing the video of the Code Pink truck being charged at by some counter-protesters, the reporter (Ana Cuervo) does make it up by including important facts.

Cuervo interviews Medea Benjamin accurately stating the mission of the Code Pink demonstration, which included the handing out and gathering of signatures asking the FBI to detain Luis Posada Carriles to be extradited. The postcards would then be delivered to the FBI by Code Pink. But, Cuervo doesn't mention the controversy behind Posada's militant past, and instead includes an interview with a counter-protester (former political prisoner Miguel Pardo) saying that Posada has been acquitted of his crimes.

Later, Benjamin is quoted saying that Code Pink was "attacked" and denied their "rights of free expression" by counter-protesters at the Versailles Restaurant. But, by not including the video of Code Pink being chased away, Telemundo51 viewers are left guessing about what EXACTLY happened, and perhaps thinking that if it wasn't serious, then Code Pink maybe deserved what they got.

The report begins with Cuervo describing the counter-protest crowd as "more than ready" in confronting Code Pink, but ends saying that Code Pink later went to the police department to make a complaint on the large counter-protest crowd for impeding their planned demonstration. Without knowing EXACTLY what had occurred, co-anchor Ivan Taylor in the end responds saying: "Surely they left with a big surprise."

I would call it more than just a "big surprise."

[Part 1]

[Photo above by Danny Hamontree]

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