Category Archives: Miami

Why is Barr Sending Bureau of Prison ‘Riot Control’ Troops to Miami?

Attorney General William Barr is reported to be sending Bureau of Prison riot control troops to Washington, D.C. and … Miami.  I’m unclear if these are Special Operations and Response Teams (SORT), or Disturbance Control Teams, or something else — sadly we have so many different paramilitaries in this country that it is really hard to keep track.

Whichever they are, the fundamental idea is so broken that it almost seems pointless to look at its entrails, but after explaining why this is nuts in general, I’ll explain why it’s nuts in particular.

The idea is nuts in general, because it’s an almost inevitable rule that shows of force against generally peaceful protestors end in tears and tragedy.  Similarly, even a degree of restraint against an ugly mob throwing the occasional rock can pay off handsomly in saved lives and long-run peace. That doesn’t, however, mean police should, if they have the numbers, permit looting and arson, as those too have bad long-run consequences.  The problem with a lot of police presences around the country is that they’ve been too violent, not that they’ve been too ‘weak’. We have the videos to prove it.  And those are officers who, in theory at least, are trained to deal with citizens who are innocent until proven guilty.

Contrast that (desired) mind-set with the role of officers in the Prisons.  Prisons are places where the inmates have radically reduced rights.  I recall working on a pro se prisoner case as a law clerk more than 30 years ago.  The prisoner had alleged that during a prison riot he lay on the ground unmoving, but that an officer nonetheless came along and shot him in the back.  It turned out that circuit law precluded almost any claim a prisoner might make in a riot: for example if he had been standing, or hiding, or moving, his claim might be barred.  But claiming a constitutional violation for being shot in the back while lying face down unmoving in the open was not then precluded by 7th circuit precedent.  (I’d be unsurprised to hear that the 7th Circuit has filled that narrow gap by now.) So we let the case proceed past the government’s motion to dismiss and set it for discovery.  That is the mindset that Bureau of Prison riot control officers bring to a confrontation. Is that what we want to unleash on our citizens?  There’s no reason at all to think people habituated to treating anyone breathing as a target will be the least bit discriminating.

The idea of bringing people who for better or worse are trained at a particular kind of potentially indiscriminate violence onto our streets and unleashing them on our citizens would be madness in any but the most authoritarian regime.  Yet, this is only early June, who knows how deep rock bottom may lie.

In that context, speculating about why Miami and Washington, DC, are specially blessed seems almost besides the point.  But since I live just south of Miami, indeed in a county that outsiders often call Miami (it’s Miami-Dade), I have some interest in that question.

Let me start by saying I’ve paid a lot more attention to the news about developments here than in DC.  My sense, though, is that in Miami, and maybe to a very slightly lesser degree in DC, the police have behaved really well.  (And here in Coral Gables, both police and protestors had a very civil event.)  There was some protester or opportunist violence in Miami: five police cars were attacked, some destroyed, and a handful of business in the fancy Bayside Mall got looted.  But overall, given the scale of the protests, the primary disruptions were to transit and to traffic on I-95, which was blocked for hours. The police by and large seem to have handled all this with aplomb.

I gather there was some destruction in DC as well and (unlike Miami) numerous injuries to law enforcement personnel. At one point someone in the White House pulled the plug on the lights, and took Trump into a secure basement.  I presume this was out of caution, not a desire to emulate presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

It being the nation’s capital, and there being some fear running around in the White House, one can perhaps understand why someone there wants reinforcements.  But, why Miami of all places?  It’s not been perfect here, but it’s been a lot better than many other places.

So here’s some wild speculation:

Theory 1: The real goal is to create more violence. Team Trump is betting it’s 1970 all over again, and they want their Kent State to rally the base.  Thus, picking towns where there hasn’t been ‘enough’ violence makes sense.

Theory 2: DC gets the nod because it’s DC.  Miami because it’s close to Mar-a-Lago.

Theory 2A: The cities are close to where the relevant units are based (NB: I have no idea where they are actually based….)

Theory 3: DC is DC; Florida is an essential swing state and it’s suddenly slipping away.  The elderly vote has started to turn against Trump; playing the law-and-order card against ‘radicals’ (and those people), might win them back.

I’m open to other, better, explanations.  Bring them on, please.  Because right now it looks like cynicism overlaying evil.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Law: Criminal Law, Miami | Leave a comment

Closing in on Next Time

I was clicking about to see if there was a Miami chapter of Never Again Action when I stumbled on this gem,

“In the winter, 10% of U.S. Jews are in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties,” said Eva Shvedova, the museum store and group tour manager at the Jewish Museum of Florida, where I took in a tour during a Miami Cultural Crawl. “There are about 600,000, mostly in Broward County,” she said, “and 124,000 Jews in Miami-Dade alone.”

Why not? Jews are many things, but they aren’t stupid. With sultry temps about 80 degrees all week, plenty of action and the ability to make foolproof plans in the winter, Florida is a guaranteed warm and pleasant destination.

10%??? That’s too good a statistic to check for veracity. Although they did get the weather wrong as it’s only February, but rather than warm and pleasant it is already more like hot and humid — one might say, almost oppressive.

Which brings me back to Never Again Action, I didn’t find a local branch, but did find their bright yellow T-shirts. On the radio this morning they were talking about California’s apology for the Japanese Internment. Given the ramped-up national campaign against immigrants, and the policies of deportation and cruel detention, a T-shirt doesn’t seem like quite enough of a response somehow.

Posted in Immigration, Miami | Leave a comment

Coral Gables Commission Allows Remote Participation Via Cam or Cell Phone — If You Can Find the Link

According to a recent email newsletter from Coral Gables Commissioner Jorge L. Fors, Jr.,

Live video commenting at City Commission Meetings is now possible. With the support of the City Commission, I passed a resolution that allows any resident with a webcam or smartphone to appear and give public comments at City Commission Meetings via live video feed.

Through technology, this new system further enhances transparency and public access in our City’s governance.

I encourage all wishing to comment remotely to visit our website before Commission Meetings to access the link to the Zoom meeting. (Note: When quasi-judicial items are heard before the City Commission, speakers will need to be physically present if they wish to offer sworn testimony).

I think this is a pretty cool idea. Alas, Commissioner Fors didn’t give a link and I can’t find any relevant info on the City of Coral Gables web site. I did find numerous offers to make an “e-comment” by text, but that comes with the following so-called “Disclaimer”:

Tell us what’s on your mind. Your comments and information will not be read during Commission Meetings, but will become part of the official public record. If you do not want your personal information included in the official record, do not complete that field.

The next Commission meeting is on Feb. 25th, so it can’t be that it’s too soon to have a link, can it? Maybe it’s only visible on the day? But at least they could tell us that. Or maybe I just don’t know where to look, although I tried the general City calendar and what seems to be the agenda for the next meeting of the Commission. (I say “seems to be” because it is hosted at “granicusideas.com” which calls itself “the most trusted marketing [sic] platform for government.)

What am I missing here? Is the idea that there’s some portal only available in real time? Even if that’s the case, they could explain that somewhere, couldn’t they?

Posted in Coral Gables | Leave a comment

We Had an Earthquake?

Apparently, the earthquake between Jamaica and Cuba this afternoon was so strong (7.7!) it shook up parts of Miami. Various tall buildings downtown were evacuated as a safety precaution.

I didn’t feel a thing in my third-floor office in Coral Gables.

Posted in Coral Gables, Miami | Leave a comment

Coral Gables Falls Prey to Dark Money

The guy supported by the mysterious group that seems to have falsified return addresses on the false and misleading mailers they sent voters, well that guy, Jorge Fors Jr., won the Coral Gables Commission run-off by 173 votes in a race with 26% turnout.

There are four groups you could blame for this:

First, low-information voters who got bamboozled (not all of Fors’s supporters of course, but enough to swing the result). I don’t in fact blame them. Not having to be well informed is a luxury of prosperity and good times. Pity it tends to be self-limiting….

Second, the Florida legislature, which has written campaign rules that it designed to be abused. Filing deadlines are arranged so that dark money groups don’t have to file much or anything in the way of disclosure until after the election, so we can’t tell who is paying for hit jobs on candidates. Even when disclosures are filed, the rules (intentionally) leave open ways to obfuscate the source of funds. I sure do blame them.

And third, of course, whoever it was who paid for and designed the hit mailers on Cabrera that I am sure swing more than 87 votes.

Last, but far from least, I blame the worthies of the Coral Gables establishment who don’t want to have their elections fall at the same time as any other race. That depresses turnout and keeps the election nice and clubby, just they way they want it. I blame the current Mayor, who chaired the most recent Charter Revision Committee, and rejected suggestions to move the date, even though being on the county ballot would save the City significant money. Supporters of the off-year-election status quo argued (1) that if the City were on the county ballot, our election would appear right at the end, and there would be ballot fatigue — but I bet votes cast would still be well over 26%! And they also argued, but very very quietly, (2) that if we had City elections on the main ballot then — horror of horrors! — more students would vote. And we can’t have that riff-raff deciding elections, now can we?

We should run Coral Gables City elections like we do for judges: have the non-partisan races on the day of the primary, and any run-off on the day of the general election. Leaving races to off years as we do not only wastes taxpayer money paying for the election machinery (twice in this case), it also suppresses the vote. But again, in the eyes of our city worthies, that’s a feature not a bug.

But one guy you shouldn’t blame is Ralph Cabrera. He worked hard; indeed he came by my neighborhood at least twice. He didn’t go low in this race. He should look in the mirror in the morning and feel good about that.

Posted in Coral Gables | 1 Comment

Coral Gables Commission Run-Off: Please Vote Cabrera

We have a run-off on Tuesday April 23rd (i.e., tomorrow if you are reading this Monday night) between the two top vote getters in Group 4.  Sadly, the incumbent Mayor beat Jeannett Slesnick by 123 votes — even fewer than last time.

I wrote previously about why you should vote for Ralph Cabrera, and there’s more where that came from. If you live in Coral Gables it’s important you take a few minutes and vote in this run-off. We really Do Not want some unknown party to buy this election for Jorge Fors. 

Since the election there have been two more sleazy mailers from a shadowy source making false charges against Cabrera. The sordid business is documented, and speculated about, at Political Cortadito’s Secretly funded PAC attacks Ralph Cabrera with mystery mailers, lies.

It’s weird and sad that dark money has come to a small city like Coral Gables, but these are the times we live in. Please don’t let the bad guys win this.

Posted in Coral Gables | Leave a comment