Another spring break in Miami Beach has gone to hell. And no one should be surprised. City leaders, starting with Mayor Dan Gelber, refuse to treat Black tourists with the same respect they give to the predominantly white affluent visitors who come for Art Basel, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and other fancy events.
Instead, the predominantly young African-American spring break masses are allowed to roam the streets with nowhere to go so that cops can round them up and put them in jail for having too much fun.
Earlier this week, Gelber told TV news reporters, "If you're coming here to disrupt, then it's not worth the money to us. It's not worth the revenue. You cannot pay our community to endure the kind of inappropriate and improper conduct that we've been seeing."
For sure, anyone coming to Miami Beach engaging in violence should go to jail. But aside from a few incidents of brawls in the streets and a shooting that left a young man dead, the spring break crowds have been peaceful. Yes, there's been a lot of twerking on top of cars, but that's what young people do.
Miami Beach created the current environment that has led to large maskless crowds congregating in the streets and sidewalks of Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, and Washington Avenue on a daily basis. The city's elected officials didn't do anything to prepare for the onslaught, except to warn spring breakers that they will get locked up for turning up.
Last year, after the NAACP and social-justice activists condemned then-City Manager Jimmy Morales and the Miami Beach Police Department for the heavy-handed tactics against Black tourists, I had a Zoom call with Gelber and other city officials. I gave them a blueprint for dealing with future crowds over spring break and Memorial Day weekend, another unofficial event that draws young African-Americans to the city.
I suggested they plan city-sanctioned and sponsored events on the beach where they could control the crowds and give people something to enjoy. It could have been set up with proper social-distancing protocols and mask distribution to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The city certainly had no problem with hosting the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which is requiring all participants to provide proof of a recent coronavirus test or of vaccination when it takes place in May. And you don't see Gelber giving interviews about the large crowds that festival is going to bring to Miami Beach.
Instead, Miami Beach continues to turn the city into a virtual police state whenever Black tourists come to town. When police officers have to don their protective vests and other riot-style equipment, they are going to get jacked up and agitated. Last Friday, we saw a swarm of cops body-slam a young Black man and then use pepper balls to disperse a crowd.
Miami Beach police chief Rick Clements told news outlets the young man refused a lawful order to leave after he'd been throwing money into the air, causing people to gather around him. Last time I checked, making it rain wasn't a crime.
In fact, Miami Beach is part of the U.S. and has to abide by the Constitution, which allows anyone to go wherever they want on vacation. This strategy of beating the crap out of Black tourists and putting them in jail is not going to stop them from coming. But city leaders believe if they create an unwelcome environment, they will get rid of Black crowds.
They want Blacks to boycott Miami Beach. But we really should do the opposite. For Memorial Day weekend, Black tourists need to flood Miami Beach. They need to come out in droves and show Gelber that he can't keep them out.
And when Miami Beach seeks additional in-kind and police services for spring break and Memorial Day from Miami-Dade, the four Black county commissioners need to vote against it. If they don't, Oliver Gilbert, Jean Monestime, Kionne McGhee, and Keon Hardemon are condoning unfair harassment and police brutality against Black tourists.