Fort Lauderdale Prepares for Massive Security Operation at Convention Center

County's security forces brace for Organization of American States General Assembly

Groups planning to protest include the Alliance for Justice in the Americas, an umbrella organization of about 20 political and other groups. The alliance has tentative plans to stage a protest march from State Road 84 and Andrews Avenue to the Broward County Convention Center. As many as 5,000 protesters could participate, said Raymond Del Papa, an organizer for the group.

Like police, protesters want to avoid the violence they saw during the FTAA summit. "The people involved in this do not intend any violent acts," Del Papa said. "Nobody's planning any disruptions.

Police at the FTAA meeting in Miami said they faced protesters throwing rocks, bottles and other objects.

But police were scrutinized for their treatment of protesters at the FTAA meeting; there were complaints alleging dubious arrests, people being barred from attending a rally, some unarmed protesters being shot with pepper-spray balls and rubber bullets, and the destruction of personal property.

Law enforcement agencies feel that by examining FTAA security they have been able to better prepare for what lies ahead at the OAS assembly.

"We've incorporated everyone else's experience into our plans," said Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Bruce Roberts. "Part of our job is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best."