Miami Beach is bracing for the onslaught of revelers who arrive for Memorial Day weekend – and the tensions appear to already be mounting there. Last year, the festive atmosphere turned to chaos when Raymond Herisse cruised down Collins Avenue during the Memorial Day weekend. At around 4:00 am, officers tried to stop him, when Herisse hit the gas pedal and sent the officers jumping. As a result, officers unleashed close to 100 bullets, killing Herisse and accidentally hitting four bystanders.
This year, the police department will be watched closely for its efforts and its conduct. As Herb Sosa, a co-founder of the Take Back SoBe movement explained, “We asked City Hall to take action on what we felt was 10 years too many of bad planning and unfortunate results. Will we be watching them closely? Absolutely.”
The U.S. Department of Justice will be there as well, monitoring the South Beach events and watching how the police conduct themselves and manage the crowds. And the police have made every effort to cover their basis. As newly appointed Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez explained,
“What we’re trying to control is just the volume [of people.] We reach a breaking point that we just can’t handle.”
Party goers should expect quite an array of safety measures in place this year. Dozens of officers will be weaving through the crowds on the streets and the beach. Police have every intention of arresting those who are disturbing the peace and getting out of hand. Starting Friday of the holiday weekend, Ocean Drive will be closed, Collins Avenue will be a one-way heading north and Washington Avenue will be a one-way heading south. For the first time since these parties started in 2001, police will be putting up a DUI checkpoint from Friday night to Saturday morning.
In addition, license plate readers will be working overtime, scanning tags to record almost every car that drives into South Beach. Cameras that can see up to a mile will be placed on four towers as well.
Police are hoping that all of these measures will help with crowd control and will help to avoid any types of incidents.
Of course, the Greater Miami Chapter of the ACLU plan to scrutinize how the police conduct themselves and how city officials react. Chapter president John de Leon complains that the police are increasing tactics that have gotten them called a “police state” in the past. Last year, he accused, “the only people shooting their guns in any significant number were the Miami Beach Police Department.”
The police department and city officials, however, say that they don’t have time for the ACLU’s accusations. As Commissioner Ed Tobin said, “There were people defecating on people’s dining room tables [during the first Urban Beach Week in 2001]. So on the events where people are defecating on the tables, we’re going to have a different approach than the events where they aren’t.”
Dismissing the ACLU and their warnings, Mayor Matti Herrera Bower said,
“Let them scrutinize us.”