8 Shot, 1 Killed in 2nd Day of Miami Violence : 230 Arrested as Police Convoys Blockade Black Neighborhoods; Looting, Sniper Fire Reported
A second day of racial violence Tuesday left at least eight people shot, one fatally, and dozens of stores burned and looted.
Plumes of smoke soared above the predominantly black neighborhoods of Overtown and Liberty City, darkening the eye of a municipal face that so badly wanted to look good for Super Bowl week.
Instead there showed the ugly lines of racial tension. More than 230 people were arrested as police moved in convoys of officers--called field forces--trying to keep a serious disturbance from erupting further.
Authorities told law-abiding citizens to remain indoors as they began the block-by-block sweep.
The violent outbreak was sparked by the fatal shooting Monday night of an unarmed black motorcyclist by a Latino policeman. A second man on the motorcycle died Tuesday from injuries suffered when the motorcycle hit a car.
All day Tuesday, community leaders walked the boulevards, urging residents to be calm.
“For the sake of our city, I appeal to every citizen regardless of race to stay calm, get off the streets and stay in your homes,” Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez said in a televised appeal Tuesday night.
Police blockaded entire neighborhoods from outsiders, but the cork would not stay on the bottle.
The first shooting took place in the early afternoon when a crowd heaved rocks at the white driver of a luxury car in Overtown. As he sped away, the man pulled a gun and fired into the crush. Derrick Mitchell, 19, was hit. He remained hospitalized in fair condition.
After dark, seven others were shot, authorities said, though details remained sketchy and sometimes changing. An alleged looter was shot in Liberty City by police, as was an alleged sniper. A 7-year-old girl was wounded in the leg by stray gunfire, police said. Liberty City is several miles northwest of Overtown.
A Miami policeman, Eric Butler, was struck with birdshot, but his bullet-proof vest blunted the impact and he was not seriously injured. His alleged assailant was later arrested atop a three-story building.
After 10 p.m., a young black man was fatally shot in the head amid the Liberty City violence. Police quickly made an arrest, but were unsure how, or even if, the crime fit in to the racial melee.
Throughout the day authorities tried different tactics. Often, they left angry crowds alone as long as damage was small.
Other times, outnumbered officers watched helplessly as looters walked off with items as large as sofas and coffee tables.
Occasionally tear gas was used to disperse people. Sometimes the crowd struck back, hurling anything they could find.
“I pay taxes for police protection !” one angry man shouted at police. “And all I end up doing is paying killers who kill people!”
A TV news van also was attacked. Its crew cowered as the glass around them shattered. Several motorists had their windshields knocked in by rocks as they slowed on expressway exit ramps.
A few hours after nightfall, Police Chief Perry Anderson announced that enough was enough. “We’ve been very tolerant. We’ve allowed the emotional to take place . . . and now it’s time to bring the city back to order.”
The field forces plunged in. Arrests multiplied. People scattered.
But still--as midnight passed--order was incomplete.
Local merchants dug in for all-night vigils, guarding businesses on streets where it is impossible to get insurance.
Police saved grocer Ahmed Dabas, trapped by gunfire for two hours in his store. “The people were shouting, ‘We’re going to get you, white man,’ ” Dabas said. “They would have . . . killed us if it weren’t for (police).”
The trouble began Monday evening in Overtown after a Latino policeman, William Lozano, shot at two men on a motorcycle, killing the driver. Killed was Clement Lloyd, 23, part owner of a car wash and a black well-known in the neighborhood.
Immediately, angry crowds began accusing the police of murder.
Questions about why the shooting occurred--and how police handled the following disturbance--have since vexed the city and fueled the rage.
‘Open Season Against Blacks’
Prominent ministers are among the incensed. “The people believe it’s open season against blacks,” said the Rev. Carleton Coleman.
Tuesday, the Justice Department announced it had opened a civil rights investigation into the incident.
“The FBI is on the scene, and with them there, we are confident there will be a thorough and complete investigation,” said department spokesman Mark Weaver in Washington.
Mayor Suarez made similar promises. Late Tuesday, he said he would ask the City Commission to name an independent review panel of private citizens to look into the case.
Suarez met Tuesday with black leaders and residents of Overtown, a neighborhood of run-down apartment buildings and trash-strewn vacant lots north of downtown.
At the time of the shooting, Lozano, 29, was on foot, taking a report from a crime victim, when he heard a radio report that another officer was pursuing a motorcycle for a speeding violation.
“He heard the radio transmission and saw the motorcycle coming in his direction,” police spokesman Angelo Bitsis said. “As the motorcycle either approached him or went by him, he fired his shot.”
4-Year Police Veteran
Police have made no statement about whether the department believes the force used was justified. Lozano is a 4-year veteran of the force with several commendations.
The bullet struck Lloyd in the back of the head, then his motorcycle slammed into an oncoming Buick. It was the gunshot that killed him, an autopsy showed.
Lloyd’s passenger, Allan Blanchard, 24, died Tuesday from massive head injuries sustained in the crash.
As both men were removed in ambulances Monday, Suarez walked through Overtown, trying to speak with Lloyd’s mother and calm things down.
He was chased off amid the first barrage of rocks and bottles. Police in riot gear then moved into the streets.
That action--the appearance of so many policemen in full battle garb--infuriated the already angry crowd, many black civic leaders say.
“The riot gear alone is enough to incite the people,” said Annie Adker, a longtime Overtown activist.
For Miami boosters, the unrest came at the worst possible time, just prior to Sunday’s championship Super Bowl XXIII game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals--even though Joe Robbie Stadium is miles from any of the street violence.
The evening news on Miami television stations dealt as much with how the disturbances were hurting Miami’s image, as how much they simply hurt.
The racial violence breaks years of respite from such unrest. Miami had a serious riot in 1980, when 18 were killed. There were also disturbances in 1982 and 1984.
The relative harmony belied the grim fact that not much has changed for black Miami, where average income is about half that of whites and the jobless rate exceeds the overall average by 50%.
Resentment Against Latinos
Johnnie R. McMillian, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said Tuesday that blacks are upset with the changing demographics of the community, where they feel they continually lose out in the job market to Latino immigrants.
“The African-Americans have felt cheated,” she said. “We felt we were losing our place in the city.”
Blacks are also upset with the treatment of Haitian refugees--who are often stopped at sea or, if they succeed in getting ashore, placed in detention camps. Other alien groups have fared better.
Thousands of Nicaraguans--most of them penniless--recently have arrived in Miami. The city has turned its baseball stadium into a temporary shelter for them, and there has been an outpouring of private donations.
“They interdict the Haitians at sea . . . and they meanwhile offer the red-carpet treatment to Nicaraguans,” said the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, an activist priest in the Haitian community.
The Overtown neighborhood itself has declined in recent years. It was once a proud, vibrant community, the center of night life for black Miami.
Then in the 1940s, thousands of people were removed for a proposed urban renewal program. But the main construction was not houses, but an expressway that cut the neighborhood in two.
To this day, plans to erect new buildings usually have nothing to do with residents and much to do with powerful business interests.
At the edge of Overtown is a brand new structure that city boosters view with boundless pride--a basketball arena, home to the NBA’s Miami Heat.
An hour before Tuesday’s scheduled tip-off against the Phoenix Suns, the city canceled the game. The danger was too great.
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