Letters from the Issue of December 6, 2001

Two Views from Club Space

 Club Space from the Outside Looking In
It was nasty and unjustified, but at least we weren't beaten by brutes with badges: Let me congratulate Rebecca Wakefield on her excellent article "Thump, Thump, Thump: No, That's Not the DJ You've Been Hearing Outside Club Space" (November 29). It was a great public service to us all.

About a year ago I was celebrating my birthday with a cocktail party in my apartment. I was very lucky to have friends from as far away as New York and Spain who had come to Miami to join me for the party. I had made arrangements to have all my guests included on the Club Space guest list so that at a certain time we could all move there and stop disturbing my neighbors. (I live in a condo.) At about 2:30 in the morning, we all got into different cabs and headed for Space.

The group in the first cab arrived and got in without a problem. I arrived in the second cab and, as the host, felt I should wait and gather everyone to make sure we all got in okay. Two more cabs arrived. We were about ten people by then, ladies and men. There was hardly anyone waiting outside to get in, as it was still early for Space. A police officer approached us and told us to get in line. I explained that we were on the guest list and we were just waiting for one more cab to arrive. He said there was no guest list, to which I responded there had to be because four people from my party who had arrived just minutes earlier had gone straight in. Up to this moment I don't recall the exchange with the officer to be particularly harsh or tense. But then pandemonium broke out. Another officer approached us and shouted that I should shut up and get in line if I wanted to get in, since there was no guest list.

I am Spanish. I had been living in Miami for only one year at that time, and this was my first encounter with a police officer. Needless to say I was shocked speechless. I simply did not know what to do or say. One of my friends, an attorney living in New York who was visiting for the weekend, came forward and said in a very polite way to the officer that he was an attorney and that I had a right to free speech. The officers then flipped completely. They grabbed my friend's arm, twisted it behind his back, handcuffed him, and said, "You are an attorney? Well, you're going to need an attorney now!" And they took him to the police car.

Another of my friends from Spain, shocked by what he was seeing, also stepped forward, and as he moved forward he tripped over the curb and almost stumbled. An officer came up and said, "You're drunk!" grabbed him by the arm, put his arms behind his back, handcuffed him, and took him to the police car. Most of my friends retreated. I was standing there in shock seeing how a great evening was being ruined and witnessing something that until that day I thought only happened on television. One of the officers, who was more calm and was of Hispanic origin, came toward me and said in a low voice, in Spanish: "Iros de aquí que estos están muy calientes," which you could take to mean: "Get out of here. These guys are enraged."

I felt awful and didn't know what to do. These were my friends, my guests, they were visitors from out of town, and they sat in the back of a police car with their hands cuffed, probably just as puzzled as I.

I decided to approach the officer who had led the entire thing. With the best possible manners and charm I could produce (I was brought up in England and believe me, I am good at faking politeness), I explained that one of the guys in the car was a Spanish citizen and I needed to know what the charges were so I could notify the consulate. The response I got was: "Get the fuck out of here or you'll be next!"

I don't believe in talking to animals, so I turned and walked toward my friends, who had gathered a couple of blocks away, by the Howard Johnson. Most of them decided the party was over and went home. I stayed with the two, trying to figure out what to do. When we thought things had calmed down, one of my friends, who is in normal circumstances a very funny and charming guy, decided to approach the police and try to talk some sense into them. He talked to them for a long while. I can't tell you what he said, but I think he even managed to make them laugh. After a while he came back and told me that they would release our friends if they signed a declaration about what had happened and we got out of there. In view of the circumstances, we thought that was a good deal.

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