Truck drivers and commuters honked their horns and waved their fists in support and people leaned out of motel terraces and office windows to check out the commotion and cheer on the marchers.

Root Cause and the Eros Effect in Miami

by Errol Schweizer

While the elite safely bargained behind ten foot high fences, the people took to the streets. The highlight of the FTAA protests was the Root Cause March for Global Justice. A coalition of community groups from South Florida organized a 34 mile march over three days, in order to call attention to the inequalities and oppression that “free trade” has created. The march concluded in downtown Miami, and led to a People’s Tribunal the following day.

Convened by three working class, people of color-led organizations, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Power U Center for Social Change and the Miami Workers Center/Low-Income Families Fighting Together (LIFFT), the Root Cause March and People’s Tribunal articulated the concerns and demands of people who will be most adversely affected by the FTAA. The events also coincided with the release of a Community Impact Report of how the FTAA will mangle poor communities in South Florida. It can be found at

The marchers were a relatively small crew of around 600, but extremely diverse, with people from a dozen countries and numerous social movements joining the mostly black and Latino South Florida residents. They were also enhanced by an anarchist rhythm section and puppetista brigade who helped out with distributing food and water. Along the march, churches and local business opened their doors for the protesters, despite the fear that police had tried to instill in the communities along the route.

The Root Cause March snaked its way down Highway 1, from Palm Beach County to Dade County. Once it entered Miami, many community residents, and passers-by gave very loud, vocal support to the march and the many anti-FTAA banners and posters that were displayed. Truck drivers and commuters honked their horns and waved their fists in support and people leaned out of motel terraces and office windows to check out the commotion and cheer on the marchers.

A number of pedestrians even held up signs thanking the marchers for fighting the FTAA. When asked why they were thanking the protesters, the community residents replied that they see how the FTAA will hurt working people and that we all need to stand together to fight it. These and other spontaneous displays of solidarity for the marchers contradicted the view that South Florida is a homogeneous right-wing, pro-free trade community; instead, it showed that this part of the United States is ideologically diverse and not at all ready to accept the corporate agenda.

The People’s Tribunal Against Corporate Globalization was held the next day in the Miami Free Trade Zone, just north of downtown. Several hundred people convened to hear speakers from all over the hemisphere, including representatives of social movements from Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, and the southwest U.S., as well as Indigenous communities in Canada and the U.S.  They outlined the crimes against humanity that the WTO, the IMF, World Bank and NAFTA are guilty of. They also spoke positively about their efforts to challenge corporate rule, from the ongoing revolution in Bolivia to self-managed, autonomous community organizing in Argentina and Chiapas. Community members led the tribunal with spoken word and musical performances, adding a celebratory atmosphere to a very serious subject.

The Root Cause March and People’s Tribunal were very successful in articulating the concerns of the people who are hardest hit by corporate globalization. It also demonstrated the organic solidarity of affected peoples across the hemisphere. By cutting these issues in an accessible and direct manner, community activists’ ideas resonated with the public at large. As opposed to the large, planned demonstrations over the next two days in downtown Miami, the Root Cause rally was not a spectacle: its message was not manipulated by police or press spin doctors. Thousands of people over 34 miles interacted with the marchers, cheered them on, and heard their demands for justice.

The Root Cause march carried with it the energy of the eros effect. As theorized by sociologist George Katsiaficas, the eros effect describes spontaneous uprisings where millions of ordinary people take history into their hands and overturn the dominant values of society, like racism, exploitation and oppression, in favor solidarity and the intuitive need for freedom. The eros effect has been seen all over the world in the past few decades, from the uprising in Kwangju, South Korea in 1980, to the Hungarian uprising of 1956, the French general strike of 1968 , the temporary overthrow of the Ecuadorian government in 1998, the ongoing revolution in Bolivia and the recent waves of anti-corporate and anti-war protests. The Root Cause action created a public space for these possibilities by taking the message of resistance to the people. Through a successful attempt at self-organization and autonomous action, Root Cause paved the way for people of color and working class people to determine how we will move forward in the 21st century.