Overtown Store Files Restraining Order Against City After Police Ban Customers

Overtown Store Files Restraining Order Against City After Police Ban Customers
Bradley's Market
For months, Miami police have been arresting customers at Bradley’s Market, accusing them of loitering at the longtime Overtown grocery — never mind the fact the owner says they were just shopping. The city also ordered the store to install surveillance cameras that would allow police 24/7 live-feed access to the property, and officers drafted a list of people banned from its premises.

Corine Bradley, who’s owned the store at 1139 NW Second Ave. for nearly 50 years, sued the city of Miami earlier this month in federal court, alleging her constitutional rights are being violated. Now, sick of watching business suffer, she’s also filed a restraining order against the city.

She’s asking a judge for a preliminary injunction to prevent the city from continuing its Big Brother-like tactics, which she and her lawyer argue are meant to help developers gentrify the neighborhood by kicking out longtime businesses.

“A restraining order and preliminary injunction would provide the people of Overtown relief from the overreaching hand of government,” her motion reads. “It is inconceivable how private citizens are being arrested and told that they cannot patronize a store which has been a pillar of the community for over 47 years.”

The city's Nuisance Abatement Board began monitoring Bradley's Market after declaring it a public nuisance due to drug deals it alleged happened on the property. But Bradley's attorney, Hilton Napoleon, says none of the transactions happened on store premises — instead, they were on the public sidewalk out front or even across the street. Most of the cases have since been dismissed, he adds.

Attorneys for the city argue its actions do not violate the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment (which prevents private property from being occupied or taken for public use) because the city is using its police powers to enforce its codes and protect the community. There's no violation when the city "merely requires a business owner to take reasonable measures to prevent drug-related activities (i.e., a public nuisance) from occurring on the property," the city's lawyers argued.

As for Bradley's Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure, the city attorneys say businesses have lesser privacy rights than residences, and the cameras would monitor the south side of the property, NW Second Avenue, a public area the city claims is known for drug activity. The interior of the store would not be monitored, the attorneys say.

The city asked the judge to deny the restraining order and dismiss the case entirely.

But Bradley says she is losing customers due to the city's actions, as the Nuisance Abatement Board fines her thousands of dollars each month "because she is unwilling to concede her clearly established constitutional rights" and as officers remove customers from her store. Others are simply afraid to come, she says.

She opened the namesake market with her husband Harry in 1969 after moving to Overtown in 1960, when the historically African-American enclave was still a bustling hub. The couple sold groceries alongside Corine's country-fried chicken until Harry died in 2008. Over the years, Bradley has watched as buildings in the neighborhood were knocked down, including two apartment buildings across the street from her market, which housed many of her customers.

Now developers are snatching up property for redevelopment, and some observers believe what's happening to Bradley's Market is aimed at making way. Her motion for a restraining order says as much, suggesting the city is harassing her customers simply because they "do not fit within the city's newfound image of Overtown."

A judge heard arguments on the restraining order — and the city's motion to dismiss the suit — on Monday. So far, the judge hasn't ruled on the case.
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Brittany Shammas is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. She covered education in Naples before taking a job at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She joined New Times in 2016.
Contact: Brittany Shammas