Miami Beach Police Criticized Over Use Of Pepper Balls, More For Big Crowds

Black leaders are criticizing the tactics police used to disperse crowds in Miami Beach, Florida this past weekend, according to The Grio.

The South Florida city is a popular tourist destination around the Spring Break season, which runs until early to mid-April. Officials and authorities have started cracking down on large crowds in the Ocean Drive area with an 8 p.m. curfew and other measures, particularly due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Miami Beach police's use of SWAT tactics, however, was called "unacceptable" by some Black leaders.

Various South Florida media outlets reported on the use of pepper-spray balls to break up large groups and even sound cannons. The Miami Herald also noted that military-style vehicles were also present in the high-capacity area. The Grio said this started happening when there were more Black and brown people getting together.

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“I was very disappointed,” Stephen Hunter Johnson, chairman of Miami-Dade’s Black Affairs Advisory Committee, said Sunday morning (March 21). “I think when they’re young Black people [on South Beach], the response is, ‘Oh my God, we have to do something.’”

Glendon Hall, chairman of the Black Affairs Advisory Committee of Miami Beach, told the Tyler Morning Telegraph the arrival of SWAT trucks caused tensions to rise, and the deployment of pepper-balls set off a panic.

An internal review is underway to see why pepper balls were being used on tourists, according to Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements.

“I think officers felt threatened at the time," Clements said. “There has to be an element there, of either the crowd fighting or coming at officers.”

The curfew was instated Saturday for these "high-impact" areas: Ocean Drive, Washington Avenue, Collins Avenue, Española Way, and Fifth to 16th streets. Interim City Manager Raul Aguila also declared a state of emergency.

“These crowds are in the thousands,” Aguila told the Miami Herald. “We’re at capacity.”

Photo: Getty Images

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