As the city of Miami Beach continues its crackdown on spring break partiers, the Miami-Dade chapter of the NAACP says heavy-handed tactics such as an 8 p.m. weekend curfew and overwhelming police presence are based partially on a racist view of the crowds congregating nightly on Ocean Drive.
“I believe the city’s reaction is unfair,” said Daniella Pierre, the NAACP chapter president who is a graduate of Miami Beach Senior High School.
The crowds are made up largely of people of color. Pierre says Miami Beach Police have done a good job seizing 102 guns in the past six weeks but says police strategies, which include using SWAT team vehicles and firing pepper spray balls to disperse crowds, would not have been so severe with a largely white crowd.
“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,” Pierre said.
“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,” said Miami Beach Vice Mayor Michael Gongorra.
Police say they have made over 1,000 arrests, including more than 400 felony charges, in the past six weeks.
“Our department polices criminal behavior, not specific people, we take measures to ensure everyone’s safety,” Miami Beach Police sergeant Ernesto Rodriguez said when asked about charges of racial bias.
NBC 6 asked a group of four African American women, who are visiting from Ohio, if the fact that the city has initiated a severe curfew and is vigorously enforcing crowd control measures evidence in itself of racial bias.
“No, I agree to that, it’s a safety matter,” said Stacy Jackson of Cleveland.
Shonte Simpson is visiting Miami Beach from Los Angeles with her teenage daughter.
“So it’s no big deal, I feel it’s OK, sometimes when the crowds get too big, you gotta contain them, and I agree with that,” Simpson, who is Black, said.
Jatwaun Parrish and Keith Garrett, African American men, are visiting from New York.
“I think they pretty much moved everything pretty well, from what I’ve seen, what was reported on the news is totally different from what I’ve seen,” Parrish said.
“I would not say it’s racially motivated,” Garrett agreed. “I would say as he said, the cops did a really good job de-escalating the situation, it was a lot of people.”
Obviously, we did not conduct a scientific poll, and there are, no doubt, people with differing opinions among tourists here for spring break.
Police say they will continue their enforcement strategies to keep everyone safe, including, they say, the vast majority of visitors who have done nothing wrong and are just in Miami Beach to have a good time.