Video: Miami Police Chief Clashes With Proud Boys Member at Cuba Protest

Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio at a demonstration in Miami on Sunday, July 11, in support of anti-government protesters in Cuba.
Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio at a demonstration in Miami on Sunday, July 11, in support of anti-government protesters in Cuba. Photo courtesy of Enrique Tarrio
In a recently surfaced video, City of Miami Police Department (MPD) Chief Art Acevedo is seen clashing with a member of Miami's Proud Boys chapter, cursing at him and calling him a "fool" during an #SOSCuba demonstration over the weekend.

The clip, sent from an encrypted email address to Miami City Manager Art Noriega and other Miami city officials, shows police attempting to control a crowd of demonstrators on SW Eighth Street this past Sunday night when a man — who New Times has learned is a member of the Proud Boys — begins to argue with Acevedo. The clip, pulled from a video shot by independent journalist Joel Franco, posted on YouTube on Monday, July 12, and disseminated without credit. The clipped portion begins at 3:03 of the approximately five-minute video. (See video embed below.)

"Why are you with Black Lives Matter?" the man asks Acevedo, referring to the former Houston police chief's words of support in the media for social-justice protests last year.

Asked again about why he supports the Black Lives Matter movement, Acevedo becomes incensed.

"Why do you care? Because that's my fucking job!" Acevedo says, his voice rising as the man gets close to his face.

When the man asks Acevedo why he hangs out with "Marxists" and "Communists" — alluding to a 2015 statement from one of the Black Lives Matter movement's founders that she and a fellow BLM founder were "trained Marxists" — Acevedo tells the man to leave and calls him a fool.

Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio confirmed to New Times that the man seen in the video is a member of the Proud Boys Miami chapter but would not disclose his name.
A far-right extremist group with ties to white nationalism, the Proud Boys have been involved in numerous incidents of political violence and agitation, including the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Tarrio himself was arrested just prior to the insurrection for burning a Black Lives Matter flag that had been stolen from a Black church in Washington, D.C. The Miami-based Proud Boys leader also came under scrutiny earlier this year after Reuters uncovered court documents that pegged him as a longtime federal informant for law enforcement — a revelation Tarrio denied.

Tarrio tells New Times he had his own heated brush with Acevedo on Sunday while at a Cuban-American solidarity demonstration.

Tarrio says he was standing atop a van outside Versailles Restaurant speaking to demonstrators on Sunday while holding a banner protesting Cuban resident Miguel Díaz-Canel. The flag read, "Proud Boys San Isidro Chapter — Abajo con Diaz-Canel y los Communistas" ("Down With Diaz-Canel and the Communists").

When he stepped down from the van to speak with someone in the crowd, Tarrio says, Acevedo ordered him not to climb back up.

Tarrio says he had no intention of climbing back up.

"I tell one officer to call Art over. I wanted to ask him, 'Who the fuck are you? Is this your van?" Tarrio recounts, adding that he didn't speak to Acevedo. "I didn't have any bad interactions with any of the other officers. I think Art has a stick up his ass."

Demonstrators have assembled en masse around Miami to show support for nationwide anti-government protests in Cuba this week. Protesters on the island are calling for an end to the Communist government amid a grave economic crisis and intense repression exacerbated by skyrocketing cases of COVID-19.

Supporters in Miami waved Cuban flags, sang, and chanted slogans like "Patria y Vida" ("Homeland and Life") as the MPD closed sections of SW Eighth Street on Sunday night.

In an interview with New Times, Acevedo, who was born in Cuba in 1964 and took over the top job at the MPD in April, says the incident depicted in the video reflected his anger at the Proud Boys member because the man accused the chief of being a Communist, and because he was disparaging Black Lives Matter.

"I'm here worried about family in Cuba, half of my dad's friends were executed, and when you call me a Socialist or a Communist — then he starts talking shit about Black Lives Matter and that just put him above," Acevedo says. "Because Black lives do matter to me."

Acevedo says he did not know who Tarrio was when he told him to keep off of the van but said he wanted to avoid any further disturbance because Tarrio was riling up the crowd.

After the video of the altercation with the unidentified man was shared on social media, Acevedo says, he contacted Noriega, the city manager, and requested that the city formally reprimand him.

"Hopefully, Art Noriega will give me the reprimand, or I'll do it myself. That to me is discourteous treatment of the public. They get to talk smack. We don't," Acevedo says.

Noriega confirmed through a city spokesperson that he did issue a reprimand for Acevedo.

Using profane or "discourteous" language to a citizen is a violation of MPD's regulations. Acevedo says he wants to set an example to other officers by reprimanding himself for what he characterizes as an inappropriate response to the protester who was chiding him.

Even so, Acevedo says, he believes the altercation and video were orchestrated to catch him on camera in a bad light.

"The Proud Boys have had a history of being agitators across the country. It doesn't surprise me that that's what he was engaging in, but I shouldn't have been reacting like that," the chief says.

The person who sent the email with the video of Acevedo to Noriega, who self-identified as "Dr. William Moss," accused the police chief of hating "real Cubans" and called him a dictator.

This isn't the first time Dr. Moss has come after Acevedo in emails to city administrators. In numerous messages, Moss has referred to ongoing police department investigations and leveled allegations of political corruption in Miami's city government. In one message, Moss warned Acevedo not to be a "do boy" for Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

Acevedo responded to the email by saying that the messages bordered on harassment.

Although the true identity of Moss is unknown at this time, Acevedo believes the person behind the emails is a member of his own department, comparing the political maneuvering within MPD to an HBO drama series.

"I have a feeling that's a cop. That's probably a cop or someone related to the department," Acevedo theorizes. "This is like Game of Thrones around here. I've never seen so much political theater."

Editor's note: The original version of this story linked to an uncredited YouTube clip posted by a local journalist. New Times subsequently learned that the video was shot by independent journalist Joel Franco. The story now links to Franco's original video. 
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Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos