Following scenes involving SWAT teams and pepper-spray balls this weekend in Miami Beach, Black leaders in Miami are calling the city and police’s response to spring breakers racially motivated, the Miami Herald reports.
In an effort to shy away rowdy crowds, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber announced a curfew of 8 p.m. last week. Soon after, a rowdy crowd of vacationers remained on the streets partying, with police responding in large numbers.
Now, Daniella Pierre, the Miami-Dade NAACP chapter president, says that the response tactics to those partying on Ocean Drive—many of whom were people of color—were not appropriate. She said that while police have done a good job seizing 102 guns these past few weeks, efforts such as using SWAT teams may have played out differently had it been largely white crowd that police were responding to.
“I believe the city’s reaction is unfair,” she told NBC Miami. “They only do it when it’s these type of events, spring break and urban beach weekend, when you have any other activities on Miami Beach, you don’t get pepper bullets shot at you.”
Police have reportedly made over 1,000 arrests, including over 400 felony charges, in six weeks. But, Miami Beach Vice Mayor Michael Gongorra told NBC he disagreed with the belief that the response was racially motivated.
“I say that’s not true, Miami Beach is a diverse community, all people are welcome, they have been for years, everyone can come here as long as you follow and obey the law,” he said.
Stephen Hunter Johnson, chairman of Miami-Dade’s Black Affairs Advisory Committee, told the Miami Herald Sunday morning that he was disappointed in the response he saw, adding that he thinks “when they’re young Black people [on South Beach], the response is, ‘Oh my God, we have to do something.’”
Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements told the Herald that the incident would be reviewed internally.