Miami's Police Union Chief, Who Has Led Cop Protests, Slams Anti-Trump Demonstrators
Lt. Javier Ortiz, Miami's police union chief, doesn't respect protesters — but has led several of his own.
photo by Bill Cooke
Thousands of Miamians have taken to the streets since last week to protest Donald Trump. By all accounts, they've been entirely peaceful. Miami Police Commander Albert Guerra even took to Twitter after a Wynwood protest on Saturday to "thank the protesters for peacefully exercising their [First Amendment] right."
But the Miami Police union's president, Lt. Javier Ortiz, has been enraged by the crowds. Ortiz tweeted on Friday that "this isn't a protest, it's a bunch of people having a tantrum because #Trump won." On Facebook, he vowed that "change is coming January 20th with a new president."
But Ortiz wasn't so adamantly opposed to people exercising their free speech rights when it was police staging a disruptive protest.
In February 2014, Ortiz led dozens of Miami police union members who stormed city hall, interrupting a commission meeting and causing chaos in the room. A Miami Herald reporter on hand for the meeting tweeted that "The only commissioner left in the chambers is @KeonHardemon. Everyone else is hiding? Police take over #Miami city hall."
Ortiz and his membership staged the protest over various benefits that had been lost in recent budget cuts. The protest wasn't exactly quiet. Here's how the Miami Herald described the scene:
[Cops] held up signs that read "Low pay, low morale." They banged against glass windows. They shouted until commissioners left the dais and put a halt to the meeting.
What started as a tame protest by upset police officers became increasingly unruly. They shouted "Regalado gotta go!" referring to Mayor Tomás Regalado, and "Restore pay!"
Stunned observers took photos on their cellphones. Others joked about calling police to quell the unrest. As officers chanted "Second floor, second floor," they filed out of the chamber and up the steps toward the mayor's and city manager's offices.
The drama lasted about 20 minutes before commissioners returned to their seats and resumed their meeting.
A day after the protest, then-Chief Manuel Orosa called the protesters "a mob" that had caused city workers to "fear for their safety.'"
The chief warned that "the disruption of a governmental official meeting is a prosecutable crime ... I would hope that in the future, none of you allow yourselves to follow misguided individuals who act without first considering the consequences of their action."
In this case, Ortiz loudly defended the First Amendment. "We will exercise our First Amendment rights, which if he intends to squash, will result in some bigger challenges for him," he told the Herald. "A threatening letter will not intimidate us from having our voices heard."
So how can Ortiz slam ordinary Miamians for taking to the streets to protest Trump when he's been such a vociferous defender of police's free speech rights?
He says the anti-Trump protesters were wrong to block traffic.
"Having a temper tantrum and protesting a fair election process by falsely imprisoning Floridians on an interstate is different than protesting illegal pay cuts at a public meeting," he says.
Ortiz still disputes Orosa's claims that his city hall protest left staffers feeling threatened.
"I don't see how anyone could feel fearful. No one was threatened. No one displayed a firearm. And, unlike getting trapped in vehicles on an interstate, people were walking in and out of city hall," Ortiz says.
(The Miami Police Department has distanced itself from Ortiz's comments. A police spokesperson says of Ortiz that "his views do not represent those of this department.")
Ortiz isn't backing down. In fact, he's taken off work today to counter-protest at Florida International University where students have planned an anti-Trump walkout later this afternoon.
"Don't worry, I won't block the turnpike," Ortiz says.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Miami, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.