MIAMI — The response in Miami-Dade County to the announcement of a non-indictment in the controversial shooting death of Missouri teen Michael Brown by the Ferguson Police Department has been – initially – muted but only because the passions aroused by the apparent injustice have been channeled into planning productive protests. For instance, a wide coalition of Miami-Dade residents and human rights organizations were organizing a rally and protest to be held at the Gerstein Justice Building near Jackson Memorial Hospital at press time.
“This is real,” said local activist Muhammed Malik as he was preparing for the outdoor demonstration which is bringing together the Miami Committee on State Violence, Dream Defenders, Power U Center for Social Change, and other groups. According to Tiffany Benford, an ally for Power U, the Miami Committee against State Violence is a “collective response organized after the death of Mike Brown.” Benford made sure to point out that the Gerstein protest will not be passing action borne of fleeting frustration. “This is a movement,” she said, “that is calling for transformative demands” at the local, national, and even international levels. “We intend to move forward to address racism, police brutality and the militarization of police” said Malik. Ultimately, activists are hoping that creating awareness aboard about these issues in the United States will bring global pressure to bear.
Meena Jagannath, Community Justice Project, Florida Legal Services described the non-indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing Brown “a nail in the coffin” of the bloody history of state-sponsored and sanctioned violence against “disenfranchised people.”
“I think it’s a game changer for the whole country” said Jagannath especially in Miami given its history.
The irony of the decision in Ferguson falling within a few weeks of the 35th anniversary of the murder of Miami insurance salesman Arthur McDuffie at the hands of Miami-Dade Police officers in December 1979, is not lost on the organizers of the event. The McDuffie crisis was a “very pivotal moment” for Miami which highlighted the forces that blocked “black and brown unity,” said Benford. “We recognize the deeply segregated history [of Miami] especially by class.”
Also of significance to activists and organizers is the demographic shift from the Miami of McDuffie’s era to today. “We’re coming together,” said Malik. Many of the activists involved with the Miami Committee are Latino and African-American which serves to validate what Malik and others said about how much the community has changed.“Miami is not as polarized,” said Malik as it was in the 1970s and 1980s.
That shift is vital to the paradigm shift activists are working hard to effect. “I think it’s a game changer for the whole country,” said Jagannath, especially for Miami given its history
Benford said the Miami Committee is already planning “follow up activities to focus on community trauma” as early as mid-December. All of the groups’ plans are geared towards creating “transformative ways to engage” the police and other state apparati about how they engage the people, said Jagannath. A major priority, she added, was “restorative practices” focusing on how police-community interactions that “look at the causes” and avoid dangerous “kneejerk reactions.” The emphasis on identifying root factors was echoed by Malik. “People are not getting their needs met” by the criminal justice system, he said.