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A Hialeah liquor store owner known for his political poetry comments on George Floyd's killing.
A Hialeah liquor store owner known for his political poetry comments on George Floyd's killing.
Photo by Joshua Ceballos

Hialeah Liquor Store Marquee Calls Out George Floyd's Killing

For decades, Robert Gewanter has reveled in pissing people off with the political commentary he posts on the sign in front of his Hialeah liquor store.

The marquee in front of M&M Liquors on SE Eighth Street and LeJeune Road is Gewanter's platform for political musings and poetry. In some 15 words or less, he has railed against presidents and politicians for corruption and financial irresponsibility. He regularly pokes fun at current events.

Nothing and no one is immune to his criticism and snark.

His most recent poem takes a darker tone, addressing the brutality of racism, police violence, and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis: NO ROPE / NO TREE / JUST A COP / WITH HIS KNEE

"My message is quite simple," Gewanter tells New Times. "It's like a lynching, just without a rope or a tree."

For more than a week, demonstrators have poured into the streets in cities large and small, across all 50 states and abroad, to protest police brutality and the killing of black Americans. Police, in turn, are attacking protesters across the United States.

Mayors and police chiefs — including in Miami — have clung to claims that anarchists, extremists, and outside agitators are responsible for the violence and property destruction that has marked some demonstrations, even as experts say those narratives are used to undermine protests and diminish anger over systemic racism, police brutality, and racial disparities in income, education, healthcare, and employment.

The nation and its leaders should have listened when people like NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick attempted to peacefully call attention to racism and police brutality, Gewanter says.

"Colin Kaepernick started a respectful protest movement," he says. "I just think it is somewhat ironic that this act of kneeling came full circle from being a symbol of peaceful, respectful protest into one of an instrument of murder."

Gewanter's messages aren't always well-received, especially in a city like Hialeah. He says he has been threatened with legal action for roasting local politicians and has lost customers who don't agree with his views, especially when they're critical of President Donald Trump. But in this case, he hasn't received any complaints.

Gewanter says he did receive a call last night from a customer who was concerned for the owner's safety and worried that people would misunderstand the sign.

"This one isn't a happy one or a funny one, but it needed to be said," Gewanter says.

Gewanter tries to switch out the poems on his sign every week. He says he loves playing with words and draws inspiration from local and national headlines, memes, and comedy sketches. He tries to make all of his musings rhyme and is already working on the next one.

"Something about Trump finally building his wall," he says. "The wall around the White House."

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