UPDATE: A response from Commissioner Michael Grieco was originally supposed to be included with this column before it was posted. His response is now included below.
After another Memorial Day weekend in Miami Beach ended in bloodshed, city leaders continue struggling with how to deal with black people. This time around, Commissioner Michael Grieco is trying to score brownie points with Miami Beach voters for his mayoral run by proposing the type of prohibition African-Americans experienced during the segregation era, when blacks were allowed in the city only during the day. By sundown, our black asses had to leave city limits.
In the aftermath of two shootings that killed two people, one by a gun-toting thug and another by cops, Grieco appeared at a Miami Beach Police news conference to blame the incidents on Urban Beach Week — the annual, yet informal, gathering of predominantly black tourists that coincides with Memorial Day weekend.
"Urban Beach Weekend is a thing of the past," Grieco said. "After 17 years of trying to handle this and trying to measure success by the number of arrests or by the lack of shootings, this is something that we're no longer going to tolerate."
Illustration by Alex Izaguirre
He immediately drafted a resolution seeking to ban alcohol sales at 2 a.m. between May 15 and 31, effectively shutting down the city's nightlife industry to keep blacks off the Beach. However, Grieco quickly replaced his proposal with a revised plan to expand the ban to the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Columbus Day. Grieco's attempt to drive black folks away during Memorial Day by pushing for the city's first air show apparently wasn't enough.
The irony is that one of the shootings took place near the show's site. Of course, Grieco isn't assigning any blame there. And when two people were shot outside the luxurious Fontainebleau earlier this year, he didn't seek out reporters to say he would shut it down.
Grieco has become the Donald Trump of Miami Beach politics, concocting travel bans against one specific group of people and instilling fear in the public. And just like Trump's Muslim travel ban, Grieco's resolution would be thrown out by the federal courts. Heck, I would gladly join as a plaintiff in any lawsuit challenging if such a law were passed in Miami Beach.
And then there's Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez sending out an email saying that the cops don't have bullets and that the police should remove their body cameras. She wants to give cops free license to kill blacks. Rosen Gonzalez, who is running for Congress, looks clean-cut and sweet, but deep down, she is racist. There needs to be a boycott by all ethnic groups until she and Grieco are forced to resign.
Neither of them deserves to be in public office.
Commissioner Grieco responds:
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As an elected Miami Beach City Commissioner, protecting the safety and quality of life of Miami Beach residents is my main duty. I take that job seriously. For over 17 years, tens of thousands of our residents have fled or locked their doors during the Memorial Day holiday weekend due to crime and violence, exponentially more than any other weekend. With arrests and incidents in the hundreds every year, it is long past the time we reevaluate how this weekend and all high-impact weekends are handled by our city. Floatopia was a perfect example of a non-sanctioned, promoter-driven annual event that had to be ended due to crime, litter, and public safety concerns. I led the effort to end it. Our future ordinances must be sensible, equitable, and NOT have a detrimental impact to our local economy, small businesses, and tourism tax base.
Miami Beach welcomes all, unless visitors arrive with the intent of abusing people or causing harm. Yes, our city will always have crime, like the incident at the Fontainebleau between two (Miami) Rolling Live attendees. But the increase during high-impact weekends must end, which includes Memorial Day. “Urban Beach Week,” a moniker created by the online promoters of the unsanctioned, un-permitted “event,” would be welcomed in Miami Beach if not for the excessive incidents of crime, such as this year’s reported murder. The Memorial Day holiday should be about reflection, gratitude, and honoring fallen soldiers. It shouldn’t have to be measured as a success or failure by the number of arrests, shootings, or stabbings that occur.
It is disappointing that Mr. Campbell, or anyone, would try to make this about race. The issue is about preventing crime in our city. The dialogue must be about protecting Miami Beach, and I encourage all, including Mr. Campbell, to participate in meaningful, constructive dialogue instead of divisive rhetoric, demagoguery, and false accusations. I will always do what is right for our city and put resident quality of life and public safety first, regardless of the potential controversy it may bring.