Politics

After Bullets Fly On Miami Beach, Mayor Sets Spring Break Curfew Some Consider Anti-Black


Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said he is not planning to implement another curfew this weekend like the one imposed last weekend after gun violence broke out among massive spring break crowds — but that could change.

“It won’t happen this weekend unless there’s some metric or something happens that changes our mind. We’re not viewing it as the first resort, I think we had this as the last resort,” Gelber told NBC 6 South Florida. “Hopefully it will be tamer, there’s less colleges on break, typically April is better than March.”

Gelber declared a state of emergency after gunfire on March 20 and 21 left five people wounded. Days later, on March 23, the city declared a state of emergency and imposed the curfew, citing “clear and present danger of a riot or other general public disorder.” Residents had to be off the streets from midnight to 6 a.m. per the curfew’s guidelines.

Last weekend’s curfew drew some backlash from local activists who believe it was racially motivated as many of the Spring Breakers are Black.

Among them was Miami-Dade Black Advisory Board chairman Pierre Rutledge, who grew up in a segregated Miami when Black visitors were not allowed in the city unless they could provide a Miami Beach ID card that gave them access to the island if they were employed by wealthy white families.

“There’s an old saying that says, ‘If you don’t know your history, you’re destined to repeat it’, and it looks like that’s where we’re headed,” Rutledge said in an interview with the Miami Herald.

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Rutledge’s sentiment was shared by Peter Thomas, owner of Bar One, a Caribbean and Afro-Cuban-themed restaurant on Miami Beach. Thomas, who is Black, used to host the “How Can I Be Down” hip-hop convention on the island. He said he ran into many city officials who are “racist” during his time doing business on Miami Beach.

“They don’t want the Black audience on Miami Beach but this isn’t 1965 or 1975,” Thomas told the Herald, adding city officials “cannot prevent anyone from coming to Miami and partying on South Beach.”

Gelber denied the allegations of racial motivation, saying the curfew decision was motivated by public safety, not race.

“I cannot think of, in the history of my city, two days when five people were shot,” Gelber said. “I’ve said very publicly and repeatedly that we don’t want spring break. It’s quite perilous. … I know from a PR point of view it’s not terrific to have an emergency declaration but honestly, if there was another route we would have taken it but I just don’t know that there was one.”

“I’m never happy with Spring Break because it just doesn’t seem to flow easily, and I don’t like having to worry every evening when I fall to sleep and I’m wondering who’s gonna wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me about something that happened,” Gelber continued.

Miami’s NAACP Chapter President Danielle Pierre said the distinction is evident in the treatment of Black crowds compared to events attended by other ethnic groups.

“I believe the city’s reaction is unfair,” Pierre said. “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.”

PHOTO: A spring breaker is handcuffed by a Miami Beach police officer in South Beach, Miami, March 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)



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