Liberty City Hunger Strike: Brave Men and Amazing Publicity, but Little Action So Far

Liberty City Hunger Strike: Brave Men and Amazing Publicity, but Little Action So Far
Circle of Brotherhood / Courtesy of Lyle Muhammad
One man, McArthur Richard Sr., has lost 27 pounds. Another, Anthony Blackman, has dropped 16. Seven others haven't eaten solid food for 17 days.

So far, four mayors, six county commissioners, three police chiefs, and a host of state senators, school board members, and local leaders have stopped by some tents at NW 62nd Street and 12th Avenue. There, a group calling itself the Hunger Nine is making a very public statement about gun violence — and not only the kind that hits white suburbs.

The men are camped out across the street from the Pork and Beans housing development, the first of its type in the American Southeast and a mecca of deadly chaos caused by a lack of gun laws and insufficient community policing. The problem here predates Pulse, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Christchurch, and other recent, highly publicized killings.

"This could be a very pretty place for people to live, but it is riddled with gun violence," says Lyle Muhammad,  executive director of the Circle of Brotherhood, which has been an important part of the awareness effort. "People in the community have been used to shootings every night. The whole world has been desensitized to this in minority areas."

So why aren't we seeing action? Where are the gun bills, Mayor Carlos Giménez? When do we get increased street patrols, Mayor Francis Suarez? State Sen. Oscar Braynon, I know you are in the minority, but what in hell is happening in Tallahassee? Remember two decades ago, when Kendrick Meek staged a sit-in?

The brave hunger strikers started their protest March 9. The Miami Herald has reported on it twice, including a delightful and important piece by one of the first people I met after arriving in Miami three decades ago, Bea Hines. So has National Public Radio.

The strikers include Blackman, Richard, Leroy Jones, Anthony Eugene Durden, Albert Campbell, Melvin El, Edward Hayes, George Dana Jackson, and Phillip Muhammad Tavenier.

The men's health is checked daily by paramedics. So far, Muhammad says, there have been no emergency medical problems.

"We hope that the whole world becomes reawakened to understanding that this issue needs immediate focus and attention from all of us," Muhammad says.  
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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse