The main event at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts' grand opening Thursday night? Cops.
Off-duty Miami city cops picketing the high society affair (cocktail dresses and Prada suits paid $500 for a seat at the celebrity-studded event), to be more exact. They were working the media-heavy event for all it was worth, trying to bring attention to their paltry salaries and low morale (starting officers make $37,000, among the lowest rates for major cities).
After shaking their signs and chanting their chants ("Being broke ain't no joke") in front of the Miami Herald building, dozens of the city's bravest and rowdiest realized they could put on a better show if they walked around the block to Biscayne Boulevard. There, standing on both 14th Street and 13th Street, they boxed in the dignitaries and gray hairs sitting on folding chairs outside and listening to perfunctory speeches before the gala concert. Despite the ruckus, few of the television cameras on hand panned to the protesters.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, uniformed police presence was minimal and organizers with bullhorns walked freely outside the barricade lines as choppers buzzed overhead. A strained rendition of the national anthem and a brief Taiko drum interlude seemed to soothe the blue-shirted protesters, but both pauses were short lived.
Miami police Chief John Timoney stood nearby, cracking jokes with a few of his senior officers as Mayor Manny Diaz struggled to be heard over the din ("No Manny, no problem"). "Art transcends time and ties us together as a human race," Diaz practically shouted. More booing ensued. -Rob Jordan