Fla. Police Tape Is No Laughing Matter to Protester

ByABC News
August 10, 2006, 11:49 AM

MIAMI, Aug. 10, 2006 — -- Call it unusual optimism, but Elizabeth Ritter counted herself lucky by day's end on Nov. 20, 2003.

On that day, the South Florida lawyer says, she was shot with rubber bullets at least four times by Miami-area law enforcement officers who were out in force to control protesters demonstrating against a free trade summit.

One bullet struck Ritter in the face.

"I felt there had been angels sitting on my shoulders because I had not been blinded by that shot," she said to ABC News.

She was demonstrating against law enforcement's handling of the protests.

A newly surfaced videotape that shows Broward Sheriff's Office officials laughing over footage of Ritter being shot by rubber bullets and calling protesters "cockroaches" has sparked outrage and prompted an apology from law enforcement.

"The Dade County Courthouse had been essentially closed by the police and essentially downtown Miami had been turned into what I perceived to be a police state," she said.

Still dressed for work in a red blazer, Ritter took to the streets with a homemade sign that read "Fear Totalitarianism."

Before long, she was caught in a barrage of rubber-bullet fire.

Ritter said police offered no warning before firing on protesters.

"There was absolutely no indication either orally or by gesture that they wanted anyone to disperse or leave," she said. "Had the police given such an order, I would have obeyed it immediately."

Videotaped footage of the protests shows Ritter standing next to a police officer using a bullhorn to announce that the protests would be permitted to continue as long as they remained peaceful.

Ritter is later seen on the tape walking away from a line of officers when she is apparently shot in the leg with a rubber bullet.

She then turns toward the officers and asks, "Did you shoot me? A lady in a suit? Who has been walking peaceably in front of you for half an hour and you shot me when my back was turned?"