AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF FLORIDA 4500 BISCAYNE BLVD.

SUITE 340 MIAMI, FL 33137-3227 T/786-363-2700 www.aclufl.org

THE MIAMI-DADE NAACP P.O. BOX 315 OPA LOCKA, FL 33054 T/305 685 8694 F/305 685 7152

May 23, 2012 Mayor Matti Bower (matti@miamibeachfl.gov) Assistant City Manager Hilda Fernandez (hildafernandez@miamibeachfl.gov) 1700 Convention Center Drive Miami Beach, FL 33139 Chief Raymond Martinez (raymondmartinez@miamibeachfl.gov) Deputy Chief Mark Overton (markoverton@miamibeachfl.gov) Major Angel Vazquez (avazquez@miamibeachfl.gov) 1100 Washington Ave Miami Beach, FL 33139 Re: Urban Beach Weekend

Dear City Officials: While ACLU of Florida Miami Chapter members have been working and will continue to work cooperatively with Major Vazquez and Assistant City Manager Fernandez to maintain lines of communication so as to be able to address problems arising during Urban Beach Weekend, the ACLU and NAACP write to express their growing concern about the City of Miami Beach’s approach to this event. As you know, Urban Beach Weekend on Miami Beach has become a major destination for young, and predominately African American, visitors. Rather than welcome this event as it does other events that draw predominantly white crowds, the City appears to be going out of its way to make this event as difficult as possible for visitors to attend, creating the appearance that it is trying to discourage African Americans from visiting the City. We certainly recognize the difficulties of policing Urban Beach Weekend. Ensuring the safety and security of visitors, residents of the community and business owners, given the size of a crowd squeezing into the narrow sand bar that makes up the community, has tested the professionalism of the Miami Beach Police Department. Our concern is that the City’s Event Plan that has been prepared for this year’s Urban Beach Weekend contains elements that will escalate tensions and make confrontations between police and event attendees more likely. As we have maintained in meetings with police and City officials at least since 2006, members of the police department should be encouraged to use their professionalism and

City of Miami Beach Officials May 23, 2012 Page 2 training to diffuse situations, not use arrest as the first resort. Further, it also appears to us that several of the tactics under consideration border on unconstitutional, if not racially motivated, practices. In particular, the announced plan to require proof of residency to even enter residential areas north of 5th Street to Lincoln Road from Washington Avenue west to Alton Road, south of 5th Street to Government Cut, and Dade Boulevard to 41st Street and Pine Tree Drive, restricts the established right of intrastate travel recognized by the Florida Supreme Court. See State v. J.P., 907 So.2d 1101, 1113 (Fla. 2004) (“[T]he right to intrastate travel in Florida is clear.”). The City’s restriction on the use of the Venetian Causeway raises similar constitutional questions. Overall, the City has planned and will implement choking traffic practices that appear designed to discourage – and ultimately will likely have the effect of discouraging – visitors to Miami Beach. This effort is being targeted solely toward a predominately African American event, which raises serious constitutional concerns. See, e.g.: NAACP v. City of Myrtle Beach, 2006 WL 2038257 (D.S.C., July 20 2006) (enjoining City from implementing a one-way traffic pattern during “Black Bike Week” when it had not done anything similar for the predominantly non-black “Harley Week”); Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches v. City of Daytona Beach, Florida, 54 F.Supp. 2d 1283 (M.D. Fla. 1999) (enjoining implementation of a traffic management plan used to bar vehicular beach traffic during black colleges reunion week). Like the Cities of Myrtle Beach and Daytona Beach, the City of Miami Beach would appear to be targeting, in a racially discriminatory manner, those who regularly attend Urban Beach Weekend. Exacerbating these plans is the reported goal, recently alluded to in a letter to the City from the Fraternal Order of Police, to “meet an arrest quota of 2,000 arrests” during Urban Beach Weekend. Such a goal, which could only be achieved by a “zero tolerance” policy, is a prescription for confrontation and will surely escalate difficult situations into even worse ones. As noted above, the police should be encouraged to use their professional training to diffuse situations and make arrests only as the last resort. We believe that a policy of issuing a verbal warning before issuing a citation for a low-level infraction will help in many cases to deescalate tensions between police officers and the public. On the other hand, notolerance policies may lead to selective enforcement of criminal laws, or at least a public perception of selective enforcement in the name of no-tolerance. As you will recall, the arrests during Urban Beach Weekend in 2006 of over 1,000 persons created the impression at that time that the City had chosen to crack down on African Americans. What impression will 2,000 arrests at this year’s Urban Beach Weekend create? Arrest quotas and a no-tolerance approach would send a message

City of Miami Beach Officials May 23, 2012 Page 3 that visitors to Urban Beach Weekend are not welcome – a message that is opposite the message the City should send. We call upon the City of Miami Beach to deescalate the tactics that have been announced (and the consequent tensions it has created) and work to ensure a successful crime-free, confrontation-free Urban Beach Weekend. Sincerely, /s John DeLeon John DeLeon, President ACLU of Florida – Greater Miami Chapter jdeleon@chavez-deleon.com /s Howard L. Simon Howard L. Simon, Executive Director ACLU of Florida hsimon@aclufl.org /s Brad Brown Bradford E. Brown, President The Miami-Dade NAACP jabaribrad@aol.com

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful