Family members and their supporters mourning seven black men slain by city of Miami police officers rallied on the steps of police headquarters to demand Chief Miguel Exposito’s resignation.
The rally came after a procession of about 200 mourners and supporters, led by a symbolic hearse and casket, marched from Gibson Park in Overtown.
The Rev. Anthony Tate, president of People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality (PULSE) and organizer of the rally, said the demonstration took place on behalf of the community.
“This is not about police bashing but about holding them accountable for the deaths of seven men. We stand strong and are in agreement that the chief must be removed,” Tate said.
Sheila McNeil, mother of one of the men shot and killed by police, agreed with Tate, adding, “It’s not just Exposito but it should start there. We put politicians in office and most don’t care what’s going on. I don’t want another mother to suffer the way I have.”
McNeil’s son, Travis McNeil, 28, was fatally shot on Feb. 10 when he and his cousin Kareem Williams, 30, were pulled over by Miami police at the corner of North Miami Avenue and Northwest 75th Street. He was the seventh black man killed by Miami police since July.
“The question is: What has the chief done since the last killing?” Tate said. “We want to expose this type of injustice to the world.”
Linda Belizaire, whose brother was one of the victims, also called for Exposito’s resignation, saying he “needs to get out.” Her sister, Guerlyne Belizaire, said the chief “needs to be terminated because he is not doing his job.”
Their brother, Gibson Junior Belizaire, 21, was shot and killed on Aug. 14 in what police said was a gun battle following a domestic violence call. Police said Belizaire fired at them several times after a car stop and foot chase.
Yolanda Harold, whose nephew was also killed by police, said “now Joel Lee will never be a man, never have a family.” Joel Lee Johnson, 16, was fatally shot on Aug. 11 in Overtown during an undercover robbery investigation near Northwest Fourth Avenue and 17th Street.
“Why are all the African-American males being killed in Miami?” Harold said. “This breaks my heart. The judicial process is a joke. Joel was 16 and he’s gone. I will do what I have to do to make this right.”
Lynn Cole said that the death of his son “left a big hole in my heart.”
“We are not dogs to be shot down in the streets,” Cole said. “If they want respect, then they must respect us.”
His son, Lynn Weatherspoon, 27, was shot near Northwest 15th Street and First Place on Jan. 1. Officers were responding to a call about shots being fired in the area.
“No matter how they sugarcoat it,” Cole said, “this all smells like do-do.”
Other victims of police fatal shootings include Tarnorris Tyrell Gaye, 19, a bicycle-riding robbery suspect who police said was carrying a shotgun. He was killed in a confrontation with officers on Aug. 10.
Decarlos Moore, 36, was killed after two officers pulled over his Honda Accord on July 5 near the 3rd Ave Supermarket & Restaurant, 1649 NW Third Ave. It is unclear what caused an officer to make the traffic stop and fire the fatal shot.
Brandon Foster, 22, was another victim. A witness told a police officer that an armed man was walking down the street with what appeared to be an AK-47 assault-style rifle. Members of the police Tactical Robbery Unit, which was in the area, arrived and saw Foster holding a shotgun in front of Allapattah Middle School, 1331 NW 46th St. The officers confronted the gunman, fired their weapons and killed him.
The Rev. Dr. Billy Strange, pastor of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church and a community activist, said the city needs to do a better job of policing.
“I’m tired of looking in caskets and going to the graveyards,” he said.
Strange also said there needs to be consequences for police actions. “Murder is not acceptable in this society. Why is it acceptable on our police force?” he said.
Stereotyping and driving while black are real, Miami City Commissioner Rev. Richard P. Dunn II said. “This is personal, not political. It could be my child.”
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net