Miami Beach sued by ACLU over artwork taken down at exhibit

Piece depicts a Black man shot to death by police after a chase in 2011

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The city of Miami Beach is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union, which accuses mayor Dan Gelber and city manager Jimmy Morales of violating an artist’s right to free speech by taking down a painting from a publicly funded exhibit.

The piece from artist Rodney Jackson was a portrait memorial of Raymond Herisse.

Police gunned down Herisse in 2011 after chasing the 22-year-old for reckless driving on Collins Avenue. Officers were found justified to shoot him.

The lawsuit claims the city had no right to take down the artwork from the ReFrame exhibit that was paid for by taxpayers on Memorial Day weekend 2019.

“We felt as though it was important to include an image of Raymond in the show,” the artist Jackson said.

Jared McGriff, the art programmer, said “we agreed on programming that would spark crucial conversations about inclusion blackness.”

The city of Miami Beach funded the art show to promote inclusiveness but ended up pulling Jackson’s piece, saying it did not fit their vision.

“We were trying to be more uniting than dividing,” Gelber said then.

A Miami Beach spokesperson said they cannot comment because the city has yet to be served with the lawsuit.

“There is an unfortunate history of censorship of black voices,” attorney Mattew McElligott said. “This case we think illustrates the importance of the need to have these forums, to have these spaces to have the conversations that that artwork and that exhibit was intended to have.”

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