MIAMI BEACH WAR ON URBAN BEACH WEEK 2017
Fewer Arrests, Two Dead
May 31, 2017
By David Arthur Walters
The City of Miami Beach has been waging war on the annual descent of hip hopping, pants-down gangsta rappers and their followers onto the beach every Memorial Day weekend for more than a decade.
The event is a derivative of the outrageous “Freaknik” celebration Atlanta managed to eradicate some years ago simply by towing cars moving at less than five mph. The anecdotal horrors there are legendary, including narratives of how young girls were raped on the hoods of cars to the cheers of the crowds. Freaknik wound up on South Beach, and was renamed Black Week. Then, to avoid racist overtones, it was dubbed Urban Beach Week. Despite the fact that the majority of the attendees have been law-abiding, the bad apples turned it into a massive, disrespectful, and frightening racist event.
The high hopes of the city’s generals for peace, especially Mayor Philip Levine and Commissioner Michael Grieco, were punctuated this year by a murder over a parking space, a related police shooting leaving one man dead, shots fired into a taxi van, and a seaside melee where one celebrant stabbed another with a broken bottle.
Michael Grieco was especially crestfallen. His strategy to diminish the pernicious influence of Urban Beach Week by calling in the Air Force and Navy in the form of the glorious ‘Air and Sea Show,’ which he sponsored and got passed by the City Commission, seemed to have failed albeit the roaring fighter jets flying upside down and doing loop de loops over the beach were indeed impressive and reminded everyone of the real meaning of Memorial Day. Outraged by the crime reports, the criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor said there would be no more Urban Week on the beach, and threatened to have bars and restaurants shut down at 5 pm for the last two weeks of May in coming years.
Philip Levine, who happens to be a self-made man who rose from hawking tours on ships to an untold fortune, called a press conference, where he proposed a more moderate solution to Urban Week, banning liquor sales after 2 am on and near Ocean Drive. He indicated he had little respect for inherited fortune when he responded to the shouts of the owner of a belly dancing night club on Ocean Drive that the mayor should have respect for the industry that created the South Beach cache. The mayor shouted back to the effect that the club owner was the only business bellyaching, only because he would lose revenue if he did not stay open until 5 am as usual, and that he should try building a business from scratch instead of inheriting one and being stupid about the meaning of branding.
Now the de facto strong mayor and his commission majority have already managed to roll back drinking on sidewalk cafes to 2 am. A ban on sales both inside and outside Ocean Drive facilities might drive problem drinkers to other areas of the city, so the ban should be citywide. And if alcohol is the cause of trouble in general, why not make it midnight? Why not ten? Why not just have a dry city?
The mayor’s critics may cut him a break since he has decided not to run for reelection and they will soon not have him to kick around anymore. He has a legitimate concern with branding, and branding has been part of his successful business. ‘South Beach’ is in fact a brand name created just a few years ago although the daughter of one of the founders of Miami Beach used the name to denote the south end of the beach. The culture has changed over the years as the Anglo-Saxon population became mixed with Jews and Hispanics, and the brand has followed suit.
Blacks were not supposed to be on the beach after dark in the late 60s and early 70s; some were clubbed by cops for overstaying their welcome. There was a time when Jews were limited to the ghetto now called ‘South Pointe.’ When Cubans arrived in droves, signs could be seen that read, ‘For Rent – No Spics.’ The beach was blighted or suffered the doldrums at times for one reason or another, but it is crowded now, traffic is horrendous, real estate prices are sky high; the mayor’s inferiors, who have utterly failed to build their own businesses and get rich, are being squeezed out. And the mayor, who was supposed to get lots of credit for saving the city from the Great Flood with new pumps and road-raising as every cubic foot of remaining space was being over-developed by his fellow devleopers, is naturally blamed for the city’s ills.
Police Chief Daniel Oates made the only scientific remark at the press conference. He noted that the number of arrests were only half of those last year. That may well be because the crowd was smaller, but a smaller crowd does not necessarily mean well behaved. According to an employee of a Washington Avenue liquor store in the shooting zone this year, “the people were fewer but there were more bad apples.”
What Chief Oates knows is that, even with the best policing, a bomber may blow up your plans. You may make a good statistical guess at the number of minor crimes that will occur during an event, for those are many, but it is impossible to predict in any given year how many murders there will be, especially over parking spaces, for they are few in number if any at all in any given year and are not necessarily related to an event. That is, an argument over a parking space resulting in a shooting is a random or chance event that may occur despite the occasion for a particular event, and may happen on a normal day when some otherwise respectable person gets angry and loses his mind.
That the shooter who caused this body count was a 19-year-old rapper from Brooklyn with friends in a white Mercedes with New York tags down here to perform north of South Beach may be coincidental. Finding parking on Ocean Drive is not easy on normal weekends, and lots of nice people in Florida have guns because Florida is a dangerous place what with so many guns around. Gang bangers abound in South Florida urban areas, and they like to bring their guns and knives wherever they go, including South Beach. A shooting or knifing or two on South Beach ever so often is the norm. Should we blame whatever event that brings people to town for a random shooting?
True, disinhibiting alcohol is the cause of a great deal of trouble whenever it is served, and having a few drinks on Memorial Day Weekend is all the rage. There is a reason armies used to provide prodigious daily alcohol rations to troops; it helped them deal with the horrors of war. Jets roaring overhead inspired persons remembering brave warriors this Memorial Day. It made them feel powerful. Alcohol augments that feeling.
Certain “urban” areas of Chicago have become a war zone; violent crime spikes in those areas on Memorial Day Weekend, reaching a new high this weekend with a body count far higher than South Beach. The key to understanding Urban Beach Week is the socio-cultural meaning of “urban” and the anti-authoritarian celebration of violence of its music.
Philip Levine is right about having the right brand, but no matter how righteous it might be, he is waging a losing war against the very urbanism he has been promoting with advocacy of mass transportation from mainland Miami to the beach. Miami happens to be almost as urban as you can get, and it might not be long until his wealthy peers go elsewhere as the beach is urbanized.
Curbing liquor sales by two or three hours will have negligible effect. That assessment may be wrong, but where are the statistics during this prolonged battle for truncated hours, that the murderers were drinking at a particular place on Ocean Drive after 2 am before shooting someone, and that they had come to South Beach because the bars were open until 5 am? Where are the statistics that strongly indicate that more murderers come to South Beach for Urban Beach Week?
Never mind, killers or not, residents do not like Urban Beach Week because they are disrespected at that time, and many cheered when police officers fired 116 bullets into Raymond Herisse’s car in 2011, with 16 of those bullets striking him dead. That was the Tipping Point. Barriers to a replay were set up, crowds diminished, this year the beach had a more salt-and-pepper crowd as real Memorial Day events were promoted; and now this: two dead, one stabbed—not bad actually.
What we have here in the blaming of restaurant hours is the attribution of effects to a wrong cause. It’s not the restaurants, it’s not the hours during which alcohol is sold, it’s the culture, “stupid.” Well, people are not as stupid as it might seem. They just do not know how to stop the violence because it is rooted in the fabric of our society and human nature.
Protecting the residential areas with barriers, checkpoints with license plate readers, running cars in a circle, crawling the area with cops, calling in the Army and Navy—all that helps in one way or another, but there are still going to be shootings from time to time.
Thanks for all that security, dear city officials and police officers. It was not so bad this year. Cry not in your beer, Commissioner Grieco, we loved the Air and Sea Show. Relax, Mayor Levine, you have our sympathies. Maybe Urban Beach Week will go to another area, or we can all get together and sing America the Beautiful next year.
Somehow we must stop the violence within ourselves, wager the Inner Jihad, before all hell breaks loose. Let us not kid ourselves about the truth of the matter, and what we must teach at home and in schools lest our decadent nation disintegrates and winds up in the proverbial dustbin of history sooner than expected.