It’s Hip Hop Weekend. Don’t Forget Your Bail Money
It’s hip hop weekend on Miami Beach again, which means it will not be safe to walk the streets without fear of getting pounced on by groups of men who will rip the wallet out of your pocket.
These men will then throw you in the back of a paddy wagon and cart you off to jail where you will remain until Tuesday unless you can raise enough bail to be released the following morning.
The Miami Beach Police Department says they are merely enforcing the law.
The American Civil Liberties Union says they are racially profiling against blacks.
As a white Hispanic who was arrested last year for taking photos of cops during Memorial Day Weekend, I can assure you that it’s not necessarily black vs. white.
It’s blue vs. whomever happens to be on the streets that weekend.
However, most of the estimated 200,000 people who will be visiting Miami Beach this weekend will be black.
Although ACLU officials have met with city and police officials in preparation for the controversial weekend known as Urban Beach Week, they don’t believe things are going to change for the better.
“I don’t get the sense that there is going to be any less likelihood that their practices are going to continue,” said LaRhonda Odom, justice project associate for the ACLU in Miami.
The ACLU will have observers walking the streets with cameras to document how police interact with people this weekend.
Hopefully, they won’t run into Miami Beach Police Officer David Socarras (pictured above on left), who doesn’t appreciate his photo being taken.
While hundreds will most likely get arrested this weekend for offenses as petty as inadvertently stepping into the street or lingering too long on a sidewalk, most will probably not get convicted, if previous years are an indicator, said Odom.
My case was dismissed when Socarras failed to attend the trial on two separate occasions.
Regardless, it’s still enough to ruin a good weekend.
“We want people to come down here and have a good time,” he said. “We have rules and regulations that need to be followed. We’re not going to overlook crime.”
And on this weekend, the word “crime” will take a very broad definition.
Beginning on Memorial Day Weekend, police will be cracking down on open containers on the beach. They are even going as far as forbidding the oceanfront hotels from selling alcohol to people on the beach.
Miami Beach City Attorney Jose Smith suddenly decided that this longtime practice is against the law.
The fact that this new law will be enforced on Memorial Day Week when hordes of blacks descend upon the beach is purely coincidental, according to the Miami Herald.
Only time will tell if this ban will miraculously be lifted after Memorial Day Weekend.
By the time it was over, there were three reported shootings, two stabbings and three sexual assaults as well as more than 200 arrests.
Police had essentially lost control of the streets, according to several news reports.
But by 2002, police were better prepared, beefing up patrols, donning riot gear and making more than 300 arrests.
And in turn, the crowds were reportedly better behaved.
Nevertheless, many locals had already fled the beach for the weekend and continue to do so today.
And over the years, the tensions between police and the hip hop visitors continued to escalate.
In 2006, more than 1,000 people were arrested on Memorial Day Weekend, prompting accusations of racial profiling from the NAACP and the ACLU.
Most of these arrests were for misdemeanors that are normally handled with simple citations.
Last year, police made 548 arrests during the Memorial Day Weekend, including 452 misdemeanor arrests and 96 felony arrests.
“A total of 31 guns were confiscated during the weekend,” Sanchez added.
To be able to put these numbers into perspective, one would have to compare them to the number of arrests that take place on other weekends.
Sanchez said that to make the comparison even more accurate, we would have to compare the number of arrests from Memorial Day Weekend to weekends like the Super Bowl or New Year’s Eve when the police department implements what it calls a “contingency plan.”
That is when they bring in officers from outside agencies to beef up enforcement actions.
However, the Miami Beach Police Department was unable to produce statistics from those weekends in time for this article despite numerous requests.
But it doesn’t take figures to see the obvious; that officers probably see this as an opportunity to cash in on some serious overtime.
The City of Miami Beach budgets about $855,000 for the police department during the Memorial Day Weekend.
But none of that money goes towards the 15 outside agencies that descend upon South Beach that weekend to assist with the crackdown on revelers, said Miami Beach spokeswoman Nannette Rodriguez.
Those officers are paid by their own departments under a mutual aid agreement, she said.
Whether they purposely turn a high number of arrests in order to justify the overtime they are receiving can only be answered by them.
But they’re not talking.
And many who stick around tend to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of blackness on the streets.
But while many of these hip hop aficionados celebrate the “thug culture” that is glamorized in the music, most of it is just fashion and bravado.
The truth is, it’s not cheap to party on South Beach on Memorial Day Weekend. Your typical quart-swigging street thug would not be able to afford the trip.
Most who come down here are young, black professionals with college degrees who have saved up all year to party in the sun for a weekend.
And most of them behave.
If anything, they might be a little louder and boisterous than your average South Beach crowd, which tends to lean on the pretentious side anyway.
But they are not dangerous.
For the past three years, I’ve walked the streets loaded down with expensive cameras and never had an issue.
Except, of course, when I came across Officer Socarras last year.
But then again, I am not a woman. And many women report that the men who come down on Memorial Day Weekend are just a little too aggressive for their tastes.
However, most of the hip hop activity - and arrests - take place within a 12-block radius between 5th and 17th Streets and between the 2-block radius of Ocean Drive and Washington Avenue.
Lincoln Road, which is normally bustling with pedestrians, can become a virtual ghost town.
So maybe you’ll finally get the attention you deserve from restaurant servers.
Photos and video by Carlos Miller
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"It’s Hip Hop Weekend. Don’t Forget Your Bail Money"