This week, officers with the Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD) were filmed roughing up black spring breakers, beating a black woman's head into the street, and shooting a man on Ocean Drive.
Locals and visitors have long complained that MBPD habitually roughs up black visitors to South Beach. But after this weekend, black city leaders and activists are fed up. The Miami-Dade County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is asking City Manager Jimmy Morales and Police Chief Richard Clements to resign.
"We've had enough!" a flyer posted on the NAACP's Instagram page reads.
View this post on Instagram
We told the City of Miami Beach to put an end to the maltreatment of Black people and to stop the use of excessive force, last Friday. . . . They didn't listen. . . . Now, it's time we show the City of Miami Beach, we've had enough. It's time for collective action. . . . Join in. Let's make changes together. Take part in the six step call to action. See flyer on ways to do so. . . . @themiamitimes @southfloridatimes @billycorben @theshaderoom @cbsmiami @thejilltraceyshow @robruban @supacindy @wsvn @daniella4change @blackaffairsadvisoryboard @sonnyredd1911 @dwightbullard_ @troubleman31 @shaunking #enough No more #policebrutality #MiamiDadeNAACP @miamibeachnews @miamibeachpd @changedotorg #SpringBreak2020 Time for change #MiamiBeach #WhenWeFightWeWin #WeAreTheNAACP
The chapter's president, Ruban Roberts, tells New Times the NAACP had a positive relationship with former MBPD Chief Dan Oates, who regularly met with the association and often resisted calls from other Miami Beach politicians to arrest more partygoers. Roberts says he warned those politicians last summer that replacing Oates with Clements might be a bad call and could lead to more violent interactions between black visitors and law enforcement. According to Roberts, Clements has not yet met with the NAACP.
Now Roberts questions why MBPD cops under Clements' leadership put on riot gear this week when an influx of black tourists arrived.
"There's no justification other than intimidation for them to wear that gear and for them to have those guns," Roberts says.
The Miami-Dade NAACP also is calling for Morales to step down because the city manager oversees police decisions.
"Any action the officers take or the chief takes, whether it's using riot gear or assault rifles and bullets, has to have approval from the mayor and city manager," Roberts says.
Neither Morales nor spokespeople for the city and police department responded to messages from New Times this afternoon.
In a clip that went viral last week, officers were recorded firing pepper-ball bullets into a crowd of mostly black partygoers as a large team of cops violently arrested a black beachgoer. One officer stuck a knee into the man's head as he was pinned to the ground. At the end of the clip, a cop fired a pepper-ball gun into the foot of another black visitor. In arrest reports, the officers claimed they were there to break up a fight; seven men wound up arrested on charges of obstructing officers without violence.
In a second clip from the same incident, a large, muscular male Miami Beach officer hip-checked a woman into the ground, smacked her head repeatedly against the asphalt, and pinned her down by placing his hand around her neck. Police say the woman had punched a cop car first.
Those incidents preceded a shooting last night around 8:30 on Ocean Drive. According to reports, cops shot a man after allegedly noticing a gun in his waistband. The man is reportedly in stable condition, but the incident sparked a stampede as patrons sprinted away from the sound of gunshots.
In addition to asking for the leadership changes, Roberts and the Miami-Dade NAACP are requesting that the city create a civilian oversight panel to review complaints against Miami Beach cops. A similar panel exists to monitor officers with the Miami Police Department.
"I'm not calling Jimmy or the mayor racist," Roberts says, "but it has racial overtones when you only do that with one population. You can't tell me that on the other spring break weeks when you have white college kids come down, the kids don't also act unruly? Why is that different? There's only one common denominator."
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.