How the Proud Boys Helped Take Down Art Acevedo

Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio at a demonstration in Miami on Sunday, July 11, 2021, in support of anti-government protesters in Cuba.
Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio at a demonstration in Miami on Sunday, July 11, 2021, in support of anti-government protesters in Cuba. Photo courtesy of Enrique Tarrio
Art Acevedo, whom Miami Mayor Francis Suarez dubbed the "Tom Brady" and "Michael Jordan" of police chiefs, has been defeated, after City of Miami commissioners voted unanimously last night to fire the top cop of the Miami Police Department (MPD) — and it came with a little help from an unlikely source: the far right.

During a grueling hours-long commission hearing on Thursday, an attorney for City Manager Art Noriega called witnesses to testify to eight reasons Noriega had outlined for why he suspended Acevedo on Monday and why commissioners should vote to dismiss the police chief who rode into town on a metaphorical mayoral parade float a mere six months ago.

From a joke that the MPD was run by the "Cuban Mafia" to a suggestion on Spanish-language radio that the city should force officers to get vaccinated, Noriega's eight-point list of alleged transgressions also included an "ill-advised interaction" with a civilian — one that prompted Acevedo to request that Noriega issue him a formal reprimand.

During the meeting, Noriega's counsel played a clip of an aggressive exchange between Acevedo and a member of the Proud Boys — a far-right group with ties to white nationalism that has a growing presence in Miami — during a Patria y Vida protest in July in Little Havana.

In the clip, the Proud Boy member walks up to Acevedo and asks why he hangs out with "communists" and "Black Lives Matter."

The chief goes off. "Why do you care? Because that's my fucking job!" Acevedo yells, moving close to the man's face.
When the incident took place in July, New Times reported that the civilian was a member of the Proud Boys. Now New Times has confirmed the man's identity: Ozzy Perez Cerezal, according to multiple sources (including a former member of the Proud Boys who asked not to be named in this article).

Cerezal is vice president of Latinos for Trump and a member of the Vice City chapter of the Proud Boys in Miami — a chapter founded by former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio. The chapter has since been disavowed by the national organization and is not included on official chapter lists on Telegram.

Cerezal did not respond to a phone call or text message from New Times seeking comment.

During last night's hearing, the commission attempted to distance the civilian's connection to a hate group.

When Acevedo's attorney, John Byrne, cross-examined Noriega, the lawyer asked the city manager directly if he knew that the man in the video was a member of the Proud Boys.

Noriega said he knew and didn't care.

"I don't care what he said to him. He's been a police chief for 15 years," Noriega said, his voice beginning to rise in a rare moment of open aggravation. "He acted inappropriately. He needs to set the example."

Commissioner Joe Carollo — who has been an outspoken advocate for Acevedo's firing after the "Cuban Mafia" comment — also tried to minimize Acevedo's antagonist's affiliation with the well-known hate group. Carollo said he didn't know if the man was a member of the Proud Boys but knew enough about him to say he served in Afghanistan.

"I don't know if he's a Pride [sic] Boy, I don't know if he's a Black Panther, I don't know if he's an American Indian or what he is," Carollo said from the dais. "But I will tell you something: He is a Marine Corps veteran."

As they've continued to gain notoriety following the January 6 insurrection, the Proud Boys have ascended to the chambers of Miami's local government and, perhaps unwittingly, have assisted in the dramatic downfall of one of the nation's most high-profile police chiefs.
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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