The morning after the shooting in Charleston, where nine African-American churchgoers were murdered during bible study, a group of more than 30 African-Americans protested outside Police Union Chief John Rivera’s office in Doral. They held signs that read, "Black lives matter.”
"It's very unfortunate what happened in Charleston and what's going on in this country — it's been going on for a while — and it needs to stop," Harris Harrigan, a community activist, explained. "People need to be held accountable."
This past Sunday, Rivera spoke on school board member Raquel Regalado’s TV show about Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s push for body cameras in the wake of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. "He is so desperate to try to gain favor in the African-American community,” Rivera explained in Spanish, "because they are the ones who are pushing this.
"So, statistically speaking," he continued, "we don’t have those problems here like in Ferguson, and speaking about Ferguson, the grand jury held that the officer behaved well and acted justly.”
A young boy holds a big sign outside the police union chief's office in Doral.
Photo by Jess Swanson
The comments offended many members of the African-American community, who have seen friends and neighbors abused by police. Harrigan was roughed up by cops after being kicked out of nightclub in Broward County several years ago. "I was stomped on so bad I had bruises on my back and was limping,” he recalls.
"That comment Rivera made — that these problems don’t exist in Miami — it brought me right back to that incident,” Harrigan says, shaking his head. "But this is not about me. It’s about protecting the community.”
At 11 a.m. Thursday, Doral Police had cordoned off one lane of traffic on NW 25th Street (right outside the Police Benevolent Association building) as about 30 African-American demonstrators of all ages waved signs and shouted chants through a megaphone, like "Apologize, John — cams on cops!” and “We want justice, and we want it now!”
Doral Police officers cordon off a lane of traffic on NW 25th Street outside the PBA president's office.
Photo by Jess Swanson
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Though the sun blared and temperatures soared into the 90s, sweaty protesters continued demonstrating for more than an hour. Finally, as they returned to their cars, Rivera came outside — with pizza. But by then, it was too late for Harrigan and his crew.
"We wanted an apology, not pizza," Harrigan sighed.