More than 200 people marched along Lincoln Road in Miami Beach yesterday afternoon to mark a grim two-month anniversary: the death of teenager Israel Hernandez. Reefa, as Hernandez was widely known, died on August 6 after Miami Beach cops caught him spray painting an abandoned McDonald's and Tasered him in the chest.
But the march was just as much a demand for action as a memorial, with Hernandez's mother, father, and sister calling on cops and city officials to properly investigate the police-involved killing.
"Isn't the police supposed to stop crime? Well, stop it already because this was a crime!" shouted Reefa's older sister, Ofir Hernandez. "Today, I [still] do not know why my brother died... They have not given us answers."
Protesters began to assemble at the intersection of Lincoln and Washington Avenue around 3:30 p.m. There were teenagers sporting skateboards with #RIPReefa stickers on them, many of them schoolmates of Hernandez's; Dream Defenders down from Tallahassee to attend the march; and strangers shocked by the senseless killing into lending a hand.
At the center of the boisterous but peaceful march, however, was the Hernandez family. Dressed in black, the Hernandezes led the march along Lincoln Road as bewildered tourists looked on.
Miami Beach police officers -- some of them wearing the same type of Taser that took Reefa's life -- blocked off traffic to let protesters pass by.
After 20 minutes, the procession came to a halt at City Hall. There, Jacqueline Hernandez rose to speak publicly about her slain son for the first time. The grieving mother took the sunglasses from her tear-stained face gripped a megaphone.
"You all have filled my heart with the courage to fight against the forces that pain me, so that the death of my son won't be in vain," she said in Spanish before being overcome by sobs.
"Estamos contigo, Jacqui," someone shouted from the crowd. "Estamos contigo." Bolstered by the crowd, Jacqueline Hernandez continued.
"I will fight," she said. "I will shout at the top of my lungs until those who caused the death of my son are investigated, until there is transparency and justice."
"Today it is my son that is dead, but tomorrow it could be yours," she warned.
Ofir translated her mother's message into English before delivering her own scathing criticism of Miami Beach cops, a handful of which stood guarding City Hall behind her.
"I've been waiting for my brother to come back home for two months now," said Ofir. "It's been two months that I haven't smelled him, that I haven't heard him, that I haven't heard him singing, that I haven't smelled paint in my house. It's been two months that our house has been silent, that our tears have been familiar to our cheeks. Is that normal? Is that supposed to happen in our community?"
"Stop the police brutality! Stop these crimes," she shouted, before leading the crowd in a call-and-refrain for justice.
Here are some photos from the protest march:
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