The officer stalks toward a group waving signs outside Miami Sequarium to protest the living conditions of Lolita, the park's captive killer whale. The officer gets right in front of a camera held by one man and then goes off.
"I'm gonna be honest with you," says the cop, identified by protesters as Miami-Dade Officer Gary Cadet. "If I'm driving with my family coming in here, and you call me an idiot, I would stop the car and beat your f***ing ass."
The interaction, activists say, is just the latest troubling moment in a pattern of harassment by MDPD toward protesters who've camped for years outside the Seaquarium.
In fact, the ACLU has recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of the group over that very issue, arguing that their free speech has been violated by cops who force protesters to stay in a "red zone" far from any patrons or staff at the park.
The lawsuit isn't directly tied to the video, which was uploaded Wednesday and first reported on by Photography Is Not a Crime. In the video, a protester admits to the officer that he called a passing driver an "idiot" but maintains the Seaquarium patron flipped him off first.
Either way, the dispute with the officer illustrates what anti-Lolita activists say is an unfair policy of forcing them to keep their distance from the target of their protests.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
That's why the ACLU filed suit earlier this month; that policy, along with bans on handing out leaflets to customers, violates the First Amendment, they claim. They cite an instance from last summer when a protester named Steven Bagenski was arrested for refusing to stay in the designated red zone.
“This is about as obvious a violation of free expression as there can be,” ACLU of Florida staff attorney Shalini Goel Agarwal said in a release." The role of police isn’t to minimize the impact of unpopular opinions, but to keep people safe and to ensure that their rights are being protected."
An MDPD spokesman declined to comment about the video or the suit, citing the ongoing litigation.
As for Lolita, activists have long argued that the orca is kept in a tank that's too small. They won a victory last month when the Seaquarium announced that trainers would no longer be allowed to perform with Lolita in live shows, as a result of federal safety rulings in the wake of a SeaWorld trainer's death caused by an orca in 2010.