"Harlem Shake" Shoot in Hialeah Goes Horribly Wrong

At first Banana Republican was torn. We didn't know whether to curse or congratulate a gaggle of Hialeah police officers who trampled an impromptu "Harlem Shake" video shoot. Do we side with the two dozen young shakers, including a man dressed in a banana suit, who gathered in front of the "Welcome to Hialeah" sign to take their shot at YouTube stardom? Or do we side with the fuzz who put the kibosh on the most overplayed meme on the planet?

It was a tough call until we learned that the cops ended up snatching cellphones from two young men who tried to film them telling the crowd to scatter.

The trouble began with a Facebook post by Dax Sotero, a Miami-Dade County Public Schools substitute teacher. "I think it's about time we show the world how to do the Harlem Shake Hialeah style," Sotero wrote, while inviting everyone to convene February 24 at the Hialeah sign at West 84th Street and 12th Avenue. "Make sure to bring some crazy costumes and be ready for an epic Harlem Shake."

On the day of the shake, all was going according to plan until 2:34 p.m., when Sotero posted, "Already got the intro scene done. Now just need everyone to show up and go crazy!!!!!!!"

Things got crazy, all right. Soon after that post, six Hialeah cops in three patrol cars and a brown undercover Crown Victoria, sirens and lights blaring, sped to the scene. The po-po ordered the crowd to disperse because it was disrupting traffic, according to a police report. Then they zeroed in on Florida International University student Eric Faden, who was filming the officers.

The cops say Faden turned to a sergeant "in a threatening manner." When the sergeant grabbed Faden's left arm to place him under arrest, Faden allegedly resisted and was thrown to the ground and cuffed along with his friend Dee Dee Wright and another would-be dancer. He was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest without violence.

In the wake of the Hialeah "Harlem Shake" shutdown, the participants went on Facebook to accuse the cops of beating up Faden because he tried to film them with his cell-phone camera. "We where [sic] all witnesses. Everyone saw how they fucked up his face afterwards when he fell," Felix Yoel Garcia Rodriguez wrote. "And it is not illegal to record an officer if you don't have intentions on releasing and trying to harm the person, plus we were out in a public place."

Faden says when he and Wright were being detained at the Hialeah Police substation at McDonald Park before being booked into county jail, the sergeant impounded their phones into evidence because he refused to grant the cop permission to see what he had recorded. "He told my friend that I was trying to make things worse for him and that he should tell me to allow him to access my phone," Faden alleges. "Then he took me into an interrogation room and kept asking me why I was trespassing and why I resisted arrest. I pleaded the Fifth."

The following morning, at Faden's bail hearing, both charges were dropped. Later in the day, he says, he returned to the substation to ask the sergeant if he would release his phone since the case was closed. "He tells me I could have had my phone had I allowed him to look through it," Faden claims. "He said, 'you did this to yourself.'"

An unfazed Faden says he told the cop, "you had no reason to arrest me for trespassing because I was on public property. You threw me to the ground and hit me on the back of the head." He alleges the sergeant brushed him off.

Since then, Faden -- vice chairman of the Miami-Dade Libertarian Party and a political science major -- hired attorney Jose "Pepe" Herrera to get his phone back. "They messed with the wrong guy," Faden says. "I think it's ridiculous the Hialeah police is focusing on going after kids shooting a 'Harlem Shake' video."

Herrera accuses the Hialeah police officers of violating Faden's First and Fourth Amendment rights. "These kids were doing something in a public forum that they had a right to do," Herrera says. "The charges were totally fabricated. People have a right to video tape and photograph events as they are occurring."

A Hialeah PD spokesman failed to respond to a request for comment.

Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.