Media Contact

CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office,

March 18, 2020

MIAMI BEACH, FL – The ACLU of Florida Greater Miami Chapter today issued a letter to all City of Miami Beach leadership and its police command staff decrying the perceived disparity in treatment of African-American visitors by the Miami Beach Police Department during this year’s Spring Break in the time of COVID-19.

As seen in videos posted online, Miami Beach police employed excessive policing tactics that were not used by the department during other large-scale events in Miami Beach, such as Art Basel or the Super Bowl. In two specific videos, referenced in the letter to City officials, large numbers of police officers can be seen on video taking an overly aggressive stance, firing automatic PepperBall weapons to disperse and intimidate groups of people who do not seem to have been breaking any law.

Recognizing that the coronavirus pandemic creates particularly difficult and challenging circumstances in Miami Beach due to the large number of visitors for Spring Break, and the concomitant threat to the health and well-being of first responders, the need to comply with emergency orders — such as limiting large gatherings, imposing a curfew, and closing parts of the beach on Ocean Drive and Lummus Park at 4:30 p.m. — does not justify violating basic rights and civil liberties through excessive policing that could lead to unnecessary confrontation, escalation, and risk people’s public safety.

“Based on the events of the last several weeks, it’s clear that the progress that had been made in recent years in police implementation of more crowd-friendly police tactics during Urban Beach Weekend seems to have been reversed,” said Jeanne Baker, chair of the Greater Miami Chapter’s Police Practices Committee. “We urge City Officials to take steps to restore fundamental principles of liberty and equality embodied by the U.S. Constitution. We look forward to the day when African Americans feel as welcome in Miami Beach as white people — and lament that that day has not yet arrived."

The Greater Miami Chapter urges the City to take immediate steps to discipline those officers who are found to have engaged in over-aggressive behavior. Additionally, the department should modify its policing tactics and strategies, and increase its training, including racial-sensitivity and implicit-bias training. These measures should be adopted so the department prioritizes crowd control policies in accordance with our fundamental principles of liberty and equality.

The Greater Miami Chapter’s statement to City officials can be found here:

Two videos referenced in the letter can be found here: