CBS (Miami), June 2, 2011
Although he was one of the early pioneers of Miami Beach’s Memorial Day hip hop extravaganza, even Luther Campbell says he no longer makes his way to South Beach during that weekend because it’s become too rowdy.
“Just walk the streets, get drunk, be rowdy, go to jail,” Campbell told CBS4’s Jim DeFede in describing what the event has become. “Me personally I wouldn’t even go over there. I haven’t been there probably in the last two or three years.”
Campbell has a long history with the affair. Initially the weekend started in the Nineties as a fashion event for designers geared toward the African-American community. It continued to build over the years, with as many as 250,000 people descending on Miami Beach for the long weekend.
In 2001, however, the event went out of control–with fights breaking out on city streets. The police were overwhelmed. Campbell and others rallied to the city with offers of help. There argument was simple: South Beach clubs can only hold 7,000 people so events need to be planned for those who can’t get into the clubs.
“The people that were originally coming down here were young professionals,” he said. “Then it became this free-for-all for the last five years where it became kids, thugs that type of element.”
This year the event ended in a barrage of gunfire. One person was killed in the melee that saw a dozen cops firing more than 100 rounds at the driver of a car that allegedly attempted to run down five police officers.
“It’s definitely something that has to end, after a decade of this we just need to say goodbye,” said Peter Tapia, a Miami Beach resident who created a Facebook page dedicated to ending the hip hop weekend street party.
In the first 24 hours more than 1,500 people signed up on his page. Currently there are nearly 4,000. Tapia and others are organizing a rally in front of Miami Beach City Hall Friday at 6 pm.
“It should not be on our streets, it’s just devastating,” Tapia said of the street party. “There’s looting. I took pictures of dozens of cars windows that have been bashed in. There have been sexual acts in the street. I’ve seen women get groped and they just keep walking; there is nothing they can do.
That notion of a racial component to the criticism makes the issue extremely difficult for city officials and critics of the event.
“It has nothing to do with being black and I think that is something we have to let people know and be clear about that because there is nothing racist about that,” Tapia said.
He [Campbell] said if the city and event organizers did that, then it would attract the type of crowd Miami Beach would want. As it stands now, Campbell complained, Miami Beach officials are running the risk of creating the perception that blacks are not welcome on the Beach.
“What I am worried about is the backlash,” Campbell said. “You have cities around America where African Americans know that they are not wanted because of some racial statement or some sort of ordinance that was put in to prevent African Americans from coming to that city. I don’t want that to happen to my town.”