Posted on June 1, 2011

Miami Beach Leaders to Discuss Fate of Urban Beach Week After Shootings

David Smiley, Miami Herald, May 31, 2011

The police shooting that killed one, wounded four bystanders and shocked South Beach over the holiday weekend may be the death knell for Urban Beach Week.

As calls for drastic change to the city’s popular but polarizing–and unofficial–hip-hop street party increase, Miami Beach commissioners will gather Wednesday for their monthly meeting. On the agenda: New ways to patrol the city’s annual Memorial Day weekend crowds, which typically reach between 200,000 and 300,000 people.

Commissioners’ proposals include curfews, forcing an early last call for clubs and bars, and eliminating all traffic in the city’s entertainment district.

“It’s time we just admit that we’re not equipped to handle a street festival with no place for people to go,” said Commissioner Deede Weithorn, who said a Saturday night out with police and code enforcement convinced her that the city should shut off traffic on Ocean Drive and Collins and Washington avenues after 10 p.m. during Urban Beach Week.


Commissioner Jerry Libbin, also president and CEO of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, has proposed a curfew.

And while Mayor Matti Herrera Bower has dismissed that idea as unfeasible, she supports a move to end alcohol sales at bars and clubs earlier than the South Beach standard 5 a.m.


A YouTube video that captured the shooting–which led one activist to call South Beach a “warzone”–showed officers approaching the stalled car with guns drawn before unleashing a hail of gunfire into the vehicle. Police did not discover a weapon, but said they are investigating unconfirmed reports that shots came from the car and that passengers were in the vehicle and bailed out.

Four bystanders were shot, and police chief Carlos Noriega acknowledged that they may have been shot by officers.


Still, Bower says the city doesn’t have much ability to end Urban Beach Week, considering the throngs of tourists who flood Miami Beach’s Art Deco district don’t come for city permitted events, but for private concerts and parties.

“There is very little we can do,” she said, adding that scrutiny from the American Civil Liberties Union–which has called for a transparent and independent investigation into the Collins Avenue shooting–“ties our hands” when it comes to enforcement measures.

Urban Beach Week hit its 10th anniversary this year. Its history has been marked by controversy, including four fatal shootings, allegations of racial profiling and now police bloodshed. This year, police arrested 431 people, up from 382 last year.

Terrance Smith, the founder of and a main promoter of a number of Memorial Day weekend parties from Jamaica to Cancun, Mexico, said he is conducting an informal poll to see how people feel about Urban Beach Week and the fatal Monday morning shootings. {snip}

“I don’t care if the community says end this event,” he said. “If the people are coming and booking hotels, I can’t just stop it.”