Miami Nightclubs Tackle the Topic of Metal Detectors in the Wake of Pulse Shooting

Miami Beach's vigil for Orlando.
Miami Beach's vigil for Orlando.
Photo by George Martinez

One day after the tragedy in Orlando, a petition appeared on Change.org addressed to the mayors of Miami and Miami Beach and five of the cities' commissioners. It asks for safety and security, and for metal detectors to be required at the entrance of Miami nightclubs.

“Requiring local nightlife venues to use metal detectors at the entry is a small investment for the overall safety and security of patrons who are just looking to have a good time with friends,” the petition reads. "Acting as both a screening method and a deterrent for potential acts of violence, metal detectors also send a message that the possession or use of dangerous weapons in a public place, particularly where a vulnerable or targeted minority population is gathered, is unacceptable."

Within a few days, the petition collected over 150 signatures, with supporters from Miami to Los Angeles.

Signers have voiced their support with comments like “I will not be intimidated,” “I worry that this will happen again,” and “I support control!” Some point out that Miami nightclubs fail to thoroughly pat down patrons. Others recognize that such a tragedy could just as easily have struck South Florida. Indeed, Omar Mateen’s impetus for the attack may have come from witnessing a kiss on a recent trip to Miami. That thought seems to have struck a poignant chord.

Mark Lowe runs House Nightclub, a venue well-known for its LGBT-friendly events. Lowe recognizes the nightclub’s historical role in the gay community, as chapels for otherwise excommunicated people. And though he realizes the importance of providing a safe environment, he’s more concerned about the insidious effect of fear and suspicion.

Many flocked to Miami Beach to light candles and mourn after the Pulse shooting.
Many flocked to Miami Beach to light candles and mourn after the Pulse shooting.
Photo by George Martinez

"It is our responsibility as owners to do whatever we can to make our patrons feel safe and protected including, if necessary, metal detectors,” Lowe told New Times. Though he has his reservations about overreacting. "The tragedy of what happened after the 911 attacks is that people stopped living. They stopped traveling, eating out, and being [in] public... It is an even greater responsibility to never allow intolerance, hate, violence, and terrorist monsters to take away our sanctuary, family, and place of acceptance. If we allow that, they've won."

Yesterday, on Thursday, June 16, the Miami Police Department met in the downtown club district for a press conference to show support for the victims of Sunday’s attack and to deliver a message to the community. “Don’t be afraid to go out,” Lieutenant Freddie Cruz told New Times. “Don’t be afraid to go out to a nightclub; don’t be afraid to go out to a restaurant. Continue to live your life.”

During yesterday's demonstrations, officers were given tours of the insides of the area’s nightclubs. The goal was to familiarize them with the layouts so they'd be better prepared to act in the event of mass violence. "We’re reinforcing to troops – and to the community – that we must be aware and be vigilant,” Cruz said.

A pride flag in SoundScape Park.
A pride flag in SoundScape Park.
Photo by George Martinez

As for metal detectors, Cruz thinks they would help facilitate safety by making citizens more aware and by taking the opportunity away from would-be attackers, but he insists it's up to nightclubs to “learn from these events, do their due diligence, and put security measures in place.” He sees the devices becoming a standard feature at nightclubs in the near future, just as certain airport security measures became standard practice after September 11.

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It’s doubtful Miami lawmakers will require metal detectors at nightclubs, even if the petition reaches its humble goal of 200 signatures. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado agrees that metal detectors may help prevent violent attacks, but suggests the true solution is elsewhere. "I do believe that we need to keep pressure on Congress to ban the role of assault weapons,” he told New Times.

The decision will ultimately fall on club operators who, like Lowe, will listen to the pleas of their patrons. Still, Lowe refuses to give in to “terrorist monsters" who want to isolate and divide through violence. "They can go fuck themselves if they think a community that has fought an eternity for simple acceptance will ever allow that,” he says.


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