Magic Primeval, Part 2

On the eve of its permanent disfigurement, the Miami Circle unleashed its mysterious powers of survival

At that moment it suddenly occurred to Billig that he had been thrust into a position of power: "If I stepped out at this late moment, I knew it would give Alex Penelas some time, because he was already talking about stepping in."

The next day Billig continued to ponder what to do, eventually realizing that his mind had been made up since his meeting on the bridge with Billie. On Sunday night he called Baumann's office and left a message for the developer, saying he wasn't going to cut out the circle. "Then I called the Herald, since they were the ones who put me in the spotlight in the first place," he says. "I said, “Would you just do me a favor and print that I'm not doing it?'" Within the hour Billig received a call from Baumann, who had learned of the latest development from a reporter. "He was surprised that they were quoting me as saying I didn't want to “desecrate' the site," Billig says. "I don't know if those were my exact words, but that's the way they had portrayed it to him. He said, “Did you really say that?' He was surprised that I'd use that kind of terminology, because I guess that the worst thing for him would be that everybody would start saying this truly was a desecration about to happen. Which I understand. I mean, he truly was trying to do the right thing, Mike Baumann, all the way. He was always a perfect gentleman with me. The closest he ever came to anything negative was [when he said], “I can't believe you called it a desecration.'"

Billig's decision had caused a setback for Baumann, but the developer wasn't panicking. He and many others might have been, though, they had they known how close the situation at Brickell Point was to careening dangerously out of control. The arrival of the mystery backhoe on Saturday had prepared the more radical Indians to take their defense of the site to another level. "One of the Indians came over to Danny Gregory and told him that now that the backhoe was out there, at any moment they might have to seize the site," Carr says. "They told Danny that when they came over the fence, he would have to leave the site. “Don't be afraid,' they said. “Just get out quickly.' And at that point, they began to show him their guns."

Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas created a political opening for circle supporters
courtesy Greg Bush
Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas created a political opening for circle supporters
University of Houston students, led by archaeologist Randolph Widmer, made new discoveries this past August
Photos by Bill Cooke
University of Houston students, led by archaeologist Randolph Widmer, made new discoveries this past August

According to Gregory, Paul Eagleheart had a .38 revolver strapped to his ankle and hinted that he had something bigger in the bag in which he had brought his drum mallets. "They were gonna throw down," Gregory says. "Paul was warning me, saying don't get in the way. We're not gonna check our field of fire." Gregory began thinking about the many holes on the site in a new light, considering which would be the best to dive into if bullets started flying. He didn't question the seriousness of the Indians. "They were really intense," he says. "I mean, if they believed they were stopping Armageddon, I'd probably shoot some people too if I believed that. What's the other choice? Everybody's dead anyway."

Gregory's nervousness about the potential for violence didn't keep him from showing up to work at 7:00 a.m. Monday. But as he turned into the drive leading from the Sheraton down to the property gate, he saw something that gave him some serious second thoughts. "There was like an ocean of people, easily 200 people," he describes. "That whole little driveway to the gate was shoulder-to-shoulder people, and the bridge was full of people." Just ahead of him was a small blue pickup truck whose driver, he realized, had come to run the backhoe. When the truck stopped in front of the closed gate -- decorated with a banner proclaiming, "Baumann = Cultural Genocide" -- the crowd closed in. "There were people all around my car, and I was right behind him, and they were rocking his truck while he was waiting for the gate to be opened. The security guard opened the gate, and he went in, and they were pushing my car around a little bit. I was trying to hold up my trowel like, “Hey, I'm a good guy; leave me alone.'"

Once through the gate, Gregory didn't feel much safer. With the Indians in front, the protesters pressed up against the fence, shaking and banging it, shouting at the backhoe driver, who had climbed up on his machine and started its engine. This, Gregory guessed, was it; Baumann finally had decided to act. "They were there to destroy it," he says. "They had their feeble plan of trying to cut it out in sections. It would've ended up a pile of white powder, but they thought it would work." Nobody on the archaeological crew knew what exactly the backhoe operator was supposed to do, but they assumed the worst. "We didn't say anything to him; we just looked at him," Gregory recalls. "Everybody out there, including us, was extremely angry with him. [The crowd] was calling him a sellout, saying it's not worth the money; we'll give you money if that's what you want. You don't have to destroy that thing. They kept telling him he knew it was wrong, he just had to think about it." Clearly intimidated, the driver held the earthmover in position and looked around at the wall of bodies up against the fence and the people packed two-deep along the railing of the Brickell Avenue Bridge above. He looked over at the Baumann-hired security guard and saw no help coming from that quarter. "The security guard looked like the most frightened person in the whole scene, I think," Gregory says. "He was slinking away from the gate; he would have run like hell. He wasn't gonna die for that thing either." There were no police in sight.

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