Miami Beach Residents Gather To Demand an End to Urban Beach Weekend
About 200 residents gathered in front of Miami Beach City Hall Friday night to demand an end to the city's Urban Beach Weekend, which this year saw 431 arrests and two police shootings that left one man dead and four bystanders shot.
Protestors held signs with messages like "It's not about black or white. It's about wrong or right," and "Don't shoot! I'm a local." Another sign said Miami Beach Mayor "Mattie [sic] Bower pimped our town."
There were many calls for an end to the weekend celebration but few actual proposed solutions. Someone yelled "they did it in Atlanta," a reference to that city's crackdown on the popular "Freaknik" parties in the late 1990s.
Several speakers rotated at the megaphone, including Walker Burttschell, who enlisted in the Marines after Sept. 11, 2001. He said the purpose of the holiday had been completely lost, that "Memorial Day weekend is not about debauchery."
Ocean Drive resident Randie Hofer, one of only a handful of African Americans at the event, also spoke.
"There's nothing we can do to turn this around," she said. "These people are armed to the teeth... Every year there will be more deaths."
Resident Normando Matos didn't speak to the group at large, but did say that the city has "a culture of inviting cash to the beach... But does money mitigate body bagging?"
Some residents have vehemently spoken out against the annual event, which drew between 150,000 and 200,000 people. Officials reported that 177 tons of trash was collected in the 10-block stretch where most of the partying was concentrated over Memorial Day weekend.
Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, who was not at the event, said Tuesday there wasn't much the city could do to reel in the revelers because the city did not play any part in organizing the event and there were no permits to revoke. She also blamed the ACLU for stifling rigorous enforcement at the event, compared to spring break, when the group is "not there saying 'you can't search that cooler.'"
The Florida ACLU responded Thursday, writing in a letter to Bower that "we strongly support the efforts of law enforcement to protect both residents and visitors, while at the same time, ensuring that the rights of all participants in Urban Beach Weekend, and other events, are respected."
But the group did not have a friend at Friday's rally -- Hofer drew cheers when she suggested building a facial recognition system into the bridges into Miami Beach and said "let the ACLU eat that."
There was also clapping when a man in the crowd yelled "screw the ACLU. They don't live here."
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