OP ED: “JB:- As we were anxiously looking towards to 22nd and the possibility of visiting family. I had to watch the streets of Miami filled with tear gas and armored riot patrols as the US is bracing with yet another high profile and videotaped murder of a Black male by White police.
A momentous weekend of protests that saw violent clashes between South Florida police and demonstrators gave way to a relatively quiet Monday morning as city crews and business owners worked to clean up and re-open vandalized stores and buildings from Miami to Fort Lauderdale.
The demonstrations in Miami and Fort Lauderdale — and similar protests in almost every major metropolitan area of Florida — appeared to avoid the level of widespread violence reported in cities such as Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Atlanta. There were no deaths or serious injuries reported in South Florida.
Protesters returned to the streets of South Florida Monday afternoon one day after peaceful demonstrations devolved into a violent clash between police and protesters in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday. There were no arrests reported Monday as of 9:30 p.m.TOP ARTICLES System in the Gulf of Mexico ‘very close to tropicalstorm strength,’ forecasters say
On Saturday, police used tear gas and rubber bullets on marchers in Miami, arresting dozens in a confrontation outside Miami Police headquarters.
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The demonstrations were among many around the country in reaction to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody on May 25 after a Minneapolis policeman drove a knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes while the man was face down, handcuffed on the ground.
MEMORIAL MARCH FOR GEORGE FLOYD IN KEY WEST
In Key West, several hundred turned out at Nelson English Park in the Bahama Village neighborhood for a memorial march for George Floyd Monday evening.
“The violence, although I understand it, I never will condone it,” said City Commissioner Clayton Lopez. “It only tears down where we live, that which we’ve built, destroys who we are as a people and causes the loss of more lives, mostly our own.”
The crowd gathered at the park before walking through downtown, including along Duval Street, with signs that read, “Black lives matter,” “I can’t breathe,” and similar sentiments. The march was peaceful; no arrests or conflicts were reported.
They listened to a series of speeches from county and city leaders, including Key West Police Chief Sean Brandenburg and Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay, who both denounced the police actions that preceded Floyd’s death.
Brandenburg said Floyd’s death hurts the relationships between residents and police officers who have dedicated their lives to service.
“It means we must work harder to retain your trust,” Brandenburg said.
Ramsay drew cheers by saying the other three officers involved in the Floyd incident deserve to be in jail.
“It was despicable, it was horrendous,” Ramsay said of the video that captured a police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck.
“The first thing I said is ‘that person needs to go to jail,’” Ramsay said. “The other three need to go to jail. Their day’s coming. And they will go to jail and that will be just one more step toward justice for this travesty.”
Key West Mayor Teri Johnston said Key West is different from other cities, with different morals and values.
“Let’s show the world what a community looks like and how a community acts and how we take care of each other,” Johnston said.
MIAMI PROTESTERS GATHER DOWNTOWN
A small group of protesters gathered near the Torch Friendship in downtown Miami on Monday afternoon, holding signs and getting honks from drivers on Biscayne Boulevard. There were about 100 people gathered, though the crowd was slowly growing.
Many of them said this was their first time protesting after a long weekend of peaceful demonstrations that ended in tense confrontations with police, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas and arrested 57 on Saturday. On Sunday, 35 people were arrested and held at Miami-Dade jails.
Even though the crowd was small, protesters like Jasmine Valentine said it’s meaningful to hear honking horns of support.
“I see more unity right now than I’ve experienced in a long time,” said Valentine, 30, of Miami. “I feel a lot of love.”
A few dozen protesters standing along Biscayne Blvd. in Miami today, much smaller crowd than the past several days.344:15 PM – Jun 1, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacySee Bianca Padró Ocasio’s other Tweets
The news of George Floyd’s death struck a nerve with Maxsill Gracia, who lost her 22-year-old brother Max Gracia after he was bitten by an Orlando Police K9 in 2015. He was accused of robbery at a local convenience store and died a few days later at the Orange County Jail.
“It affected my family in a negative way and I understand the emotions going forth throughout our nation and throughout the world right now,” said Gracia, 29, who was raised in Orlando and now lives in Miami.
“I understand the hurt, so you never know until you’re in those shoes,” she added.
Gracia, whose family’s case was heavily covered by Orlando media, has joined the Miami protests that have drawn large crowds in recent days.
Angel Severin, a 22-year-old Miami Dade College student, said while he’s been scared in the past he felt safe among the crowd.
He stood with about 100 others outside American Airlines Arena as organizers reminded protesters to stay safe and to maintain a peaceful response when approached by police.
The speakers, some of whom were associated with the Dream Defenders, asked people to keep up with the group’s other initiatives.
Severin carried a target-practice sheet covered with the names of black people who have been killed in high-profile cases. He said he was sick of sitting at home “sad and scared.”
“As a black man, I go to school and I’m scared every day,” he said. “After I went to the range, I looked at the sheet and looked at a list of black names, and it just felt right.”
At 5:20 p.m., organizers instructed the crowd gathered in front of the Freedom Tower that they would be marching toward the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, about a 15 minute walk. Protesters were singing Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” while others gave interviews to media.
Joseph Martinez, an activist with Dream Defenders Miami, a group that advocates for the elimination of jails and policing, emphasized that Monday’s protests would be peaceful
“Here in Dade County we move in a certain fashion to protect the most vulnerable,” said Dahmec Denson, an activist who lives in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.
By 5:35 p.m., the crowd marched away from a line of police officers in riot gear standing across the street in front of the AmericanAirlines Arena.
As protestors continued down Northwest Sixth Street into Overtown, they grew in size.
“We are going to show our solidarity with the low-income residents of this neighborhood right now,” Denson told the crowd.
Young children came out of their houses with their fists in the air.
“Black lives matter!” they said, echoing the protestors.
Rapper Swae Lee pulled up to the crowd on Northwest 12th Avenue in a black Cadillac SUV, cheering on the protestors as they neared the Miami-Dade County courthouse.
“I wish I could get out and walk with y’all,” he said.
Protestors made their way to the office of State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, who has been widely criticized by activists for the handling of accusations of police brutality in Miami-Dade County.
Elaine Williams, whose son, Labrant Dennis, is at the Miami-Dade County Pre-Trial Detention Center across the street, started to cry. Dennis was convicted of the murders of University of Miami linebacker Marlon Barnes and a girlfriend, Timwanika Lumpkins, inside a campus dorm room in 1996.
“My son is up there,” said Williams, 62, of Liberty City, crying and pointing at the building.
“We hear you mama,” protestors said.
Rose McFarlane, who has lived in Overtown for 35 years, said she’s been outraged by Floyd’s death. Hearing Floyd say “Mama” on video had her in tears, she said.
She leaned against her fence and watched protestors and a large group of police on bicycles pass by.
“We’re all supposed to be brothers and sisters,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “If it was you, you’d feel real bad.”
As protesters looped back downtown from Overtown, Martinez asked the crowd to kneel briefly for a special announcement.
He told the crowd that protesters had been shot with rubber bullets in Washington D.C., as president Donald Trump was making an announcement on the death of George Floyd.
“His speech was a war declarance on protesters. Thousands and thousands of military will be deployed across the nation,” said Martinez. “We gotta keep us safe tonight but we have to stay together.”
The crowd chanted “Whose streets? Our streets.”
Across the street on a patch of grass in front of a Winn-Dixie on 11th Street and 10th Avenue, a few kids jumped gleefully and waved at the protesters.
“We’re fighting for you,” one protester said.
The Monday evening protest ended peacefully and without incident at the Miami Freedom Tower downtown, which was lit up in blue. About 200 protestors gathered to hear organizers speak.
Across the street at AmericanAirlines Arena, police lined the streets and blocked the PortMiami bridge.
“Police don’t keep us safe,” Martinez said. “We keep us safe … the police are looking for reasons to be violent.”
Organizers congratulated protestors on a peaceful demonstration, and closed by saying they will protest Tuesday and every day, whether publicly or in their private lives.
“If we are going to destroy, we are going to destroy organized,” Denson said. “We all need to stay in contact so we can organize with each other, for each other.”
A handful of protesters remained downtown around 8:30 p.m. Monday as police in riot gear reminded them that they would be subject to arrest if they broke a 9 p.m. countywide curfew order. But the crowd dispersed without incident, and just before 9:30 p.m., Miami-Dade police said on Twitter that they had not made any arrests.
County police also said they hadn’t received any reports of damage to police vehicles, PortMiami or Government Center downtown. Police had made dozens of arrests Saturday and Sunday, many for violations of the curfew order.
— By Samantha J. Gross and Bianca Padró Ocasio
BROWARD EXTENDS CURFEW AFTER PROTEST ‘REPORTS’
Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry signed an emergency order Monday afternoon extending the curfew imposed Sunday night in the wake of a violent clash between police and protesters in Fort Lauderdale. The curfew begins at 9 p.m. and extends to 6 a.m. Tuesday.
The curfew was extended “in response to credible reports of possible civil unrest that could potentially threaten the health, safety and welfare of the people of Broward County,” according to a news release.
The curfew could remain in place through June 7, but Henry has the discretion to extend or end the order based on her assessment of the threat of unrest.
It is unclear what “credible reports” county officials have received or whether protests are planned in Broward for Monday.
The Sawgrass Mills mall in Sunrise closed early at 4 p.m. on Monday. Sunrise police said on Twitter that they were aware of threats made on social media that there would be rioting and looting at the mall.
Under Broward’s curfew, county residents may travel between their homes and workplaces. They’re also allowed to walk their pets near their homes.
— By Aaron Leibowitz and Daniel Chang
TWO SOUTH FLORIDA MALLS CLOSE DUE TO PROTEST FEARS
The Aventura Mall in Miami-Dade County and the Sawgrass Mills mall in Sunrise, the two largest malls in South Florida, both closed their doors early Monday due to rumors about potential protesting and looting that never materialized.
Aventura Mall shut down at 2 p.m. Monday, five hours before it usually does. Sgt. Hans Maestre, a spokesman for the Aventura police department, said police received information about a potential protest but wouldn’t provide details.
“We went ahead and made notifications and prepared ourselves logistically to address any issues that could occur like they have been occurring over the last two to three days,” Maestre said. “We do not expect the same incidents but are taking every precaution.”
Maestre later said no protesters showed up in the area.
“While we welcome protests, there was no activity tonight,” he said. “There have been no incidents.”
The situation was similar at Sawgrass Mills, which shut its doors at 4 p.m. Sunrise police replied to someone on Twitter saying they were aware of a rumor circulating on Snapchat about “a riot and looting at the Target” at the mall.
But there were no reports of any such activity at the mall Monday evening.
“There were reports of possible protests and potentially some unrest in the area but nothing happened,” a Sunrise police spokesman said.
In South Dade, about a dozen Miami-Dade County police cars and a few Florida Highway Patrol troopers patrolled the parking lot of Southland Mall at 20505 South Dixie Highway in Cutler Bay Monday afternoon into the evening.
The cruisers’ roof lights were on as they slowly drove throughout the parking lot and posted in front of stores, but a county police officer sitting in his car outside an LA Fitness gym said the officers were not reacting to any specific reports of potential protest activity at the southwest Dade shopping center.
“We’re just showing a presence,” the officer said.
— By Aaron Leibowitz, Daniel Chang and David Goodhue
AUTOPSY SAYS FLOYD WAS ASPHYXIATED
An autopsy commissioned for George Floyd’s family found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression when a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes and ignored his cries of distress, the Associated Press reported on Monday.
The autopsy by a doctor who also examined Eric Garner’s body found the compression cut off blood to Floyd’s brain, and weight on his back made it hard to breathe, said Ben Crump, an attorney for Floyd’s family. He called for the third-degree murder charge against Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to be upgraded to first-degree murder and for three other officers to be charged.
The family’s autopsy differs from the official autopsy as described in a criminal complaint against the officer. That autopsy included the effects of being restrained, along with underlying health issues and potential intoxicants in Floyd’s system, but also said it found nothing “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.”
DOJ SENDS RIOT TEAMS TO MIAMI
Attorney General William Barr is reportedly directing the Federal Bureau of Prisons to deploy riot teams to Washington, D.C., and Miami as part of the Trump administration’s response to protests, according to reports in USA Today and The Washington Post.
The federal prison riot team arrived Sunday in Miami, where protests had turned violent on Saturday night as vandals burned police cars and threw rocks and bottles at police in riot gear, including helmets and shields.
According to USA Today, a federal official said every FBI field office is setting up command posts and will work with local police to bring charges against persons who traveled from out of state to incite violence and participate in rioting. The FBI also will review whether those in custody committed any federal crimes.
In Miami-Dade and Broward, police and politicians have blamed the flare-ups on outside agitators unaffiliated with organized marches.
The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment from the Herald.
MIAMI GAVE MARCHERS ‘FREE RANGE,’ MAYOR SAYS
At Bayside Marketplace Monday afternoon, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said the three-decade old shopping court downtown remains open for business after five stores sustained damage during weekend protests.
Suarez said that 3 arrests were made during Sunday’s demonstration, compared with 57 Saturday, and that two of those three individuals “came from out of state.”
He said he did not agree with language reportedly used by President Trump calling on governors to “dominate” demonstrators, saying the city had given marchers “a lot of free range” over the weekend.
Pamela Weller Garcia-Serra, Senior General Manager at Bayside MarketPlace, said she was optimistic about Bayside’s short-term prospects, saying July was usually one if its strongest months thanks to July 4 events. She also said 50 tenants had received Paycheck Protection Program loans.
— By Rob Wile
SOUTH FLORIDA STARTS CLEAN UP
Fort Lauderdale awoke on Monday to find National Guard troops standing watch on city streets as cleanup crews swept sidewalks and scrubbed graffiti from buildings after more than 1,000 people gathered at Huizenga Park on East Las Olas Boulevard for a demonstration.
The gathering began peacefully but later turned violent. On Monday, Fort Lauderdale police suspended an officer after video showed he pushed a kneeling woman to the ground during Sunday’s demonstration. Other police officers pushed him away from the woman and down the street after the incident.
Ofc. Steven Poherence was relieved of duty and will be investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione. Poherence was hired in October 2016 and had worked for the Florida Highway Patrol prior to joining Fort Lauderdale’s police department, said spokeswoman Casey Liening.
On Sunday night, Maglione told reporters that an officer’s call for assistance may have been the spark that led to the confrontation between police and protesters.
Maglione said details about the skirmish remained fuzzy in the early going. But he said an officer had called for help around the time protesters began throwing water bottles at police and officers fired tear gas into the crowd.
“There was an officer in need of assistance. Several officers responded to provide that assistance,” Maglione said. “That officer was in fear.”
Video of the protest appeared to show that protesters began throwing water bottles at police after an officer shoved a woman from behind while walking back toward the Broward County Public Library and away from the crowd. Maglione said the officer has been suspended and the incident is under investigation.
Fort Lauderdale declared a state of emergency and Broward County officials ordered a curfew after the confrontation between police and protesters.
On Monday morning, National Guard Members stood watch over the stretch of street with the most damage.
Many of the restaurants and bars on Southwest Second Street had at least one broken window, as did a Broward County government building and the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale in downtown.
City cleanup crews were busy power washing graffiti off buildings and sweeping sidewalks of the leftover protest signs and bandannas.
Windows were blown out at the county government center and a few shops on Las Olas Boulevard were looted. Some protesters said they were fired upon outside the Broward County library without warning.
Fort Lauderdale police reported two arrests from Sunday’s demonstrations and unspecified damage to “a couple of police cars,” said spokeswoman Casey Liening.