Miami protest Saturday goes from peaceful to pandemonium

Miami-Dade under curfew, Lauderhill cancels Sunday protest

MIAMI – A peaceful protest that began Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Torch of Friendship turned into a chaotic scene around nightfall prompting Miami-Dade County’s mayor to sign an emergency order for a curfew.

The Miami protest was made up of people of all different races and ages. It was one of at least 30 that erupted in cities over the death of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of a white police office in Minneapolis Monday.

The curfew came early in the evening and was put into place after there were reports of looting at Bayside Marketplace on Biscayne Boulevard.

“I’ve ordered a county-wide curfew to protect the lives and property of all Miami-Dade County’s 2.8 million residents,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in a video posted Saturday night. “I wholeheartedly support peaceful protests, but once they get into lawlessness, there is zero tolerance.”

A SWAT team was dispatched to the area and looters took off before police arrived. They had smashed the window of a Guess store with a trash can and took merchandise, along with looting other stores. Local 10′s Ian Margol said the aftermath looked like a tornado had gone through the area. He saw expensive running shoes and new cellphones left behind.


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The curfew will remain in effect from 10 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday. On Sunday, the curfew starts again from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said all county residents need to be off the streets unless they are required to be out for “essential” reasons because of work commitments.

The city of Miami has instituted an 8 p.m. curfew Sunday.

Miami-Dade Transit was halted for the day Sunday, May 31 because of more possible protests. All services, including Metrorail, Metromover, Metrobus, and the GO Nightly program were suspended.

Hallandale Beach in Broward County put a curfew into effect from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice.


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The mood starts to change

Around 5 p.m., a group had stopped traffic on Interstate 95. After they eventually cleared out, some of the protesters gathered in back of the City of Miami police department. Officers in riot gear held the line.

Things remained peaceful for more than an hour. Some in the crowd were throwing water bottles directly at the police, but there was no interaction with the protesters.

After a few people began throwing rocks around 7:45 p.m. near the City of Miami police department and firecrackers were tossed near police, tear gas was fired into the crowd.

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Peaceful march turns into fiery protest in downtown Miami on Saturday.

Local 10 saw about four or five teenagers climb on top of a police car and start stomping on it. When the police car was set on fire, the protest took a different turn.

On the south side of the Miami police department headquarters, some other cruisers were torched. Several police cruisers under Interstate 95 were vandalized with windows smashed out, graffiti spray painted on them, and were heavily damaged.

Bursts of tear gas were released to push what had now become an unruly crowd. Many of the original protesters said those who started the mayhem were agitators “from the outside.”

The downtown Miami protest that started at 3 p.m. at the Torch of Friendship was supposed to end at 6 p.m., but continued throughout the night. The remainder of the protesters started to thin out as police cruisers took to the streets to enforce the curfew at 10 p.m. By 11 p.m., most of the area that suffered the intense damage was clear and a clean up started.

The protest in Miami began on Biscayne Boulevard with demonstrators carrying signs and chanting “I Can’t Breathe,” the words that Floyd said as he pleaded with officer Derek Chauvin to let him up.

Chauvin, 44, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, An investigation into the other three officers who were present at the scene on Monday was continuing, he said.

Protesters in Miami said the march wasn’t just about Floyd’s death but a continuing use of force by police against black, brown and people of color.

Earlier Saturday, city of Miami leaders joined forces with the faith-based community to issue a message of calm.

“What you saw on that video was hate," Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said regarding the video that has been widely circulated Chauvin with his knee in Floyd’s neck. Colina pleaded with Miami protesters to not vandalize the city.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez who remained throughout the protest and into the night inside the city of Miami police department building said at that morning gathering, “I want to urge our citizens to please demonstrate peacefully, we want you to exercise your first amendment right. We want you to get whatever pains and anguish you’re feeling inside, out but we want you to do it in an appropriate manner.”

This protest did start out that way.

About the Author:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local