By Luther Campbell
Note to African American tourists who showed up in Miami for Memorial Day Weekend. Next year, book your four-day vacation in the Bahamas or Jamaica, where your tourism dollars will be appreciated. Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower and the city commissioners have certainly made it clear that they don’t want Blacks back.
In response to last year’s police shooting of an unarmed man and several innocent by-standers, the politicians turned Miami Beach into a three-day police state. Of course, the enormous police presence was just a show to make the residents feel safer. But it created even more racial tension in a city with a history of excluding people of color.
Miami Beach doesn’t roll out the red carpet for African-American visit-ors as it does for those who attend the boat show, Art Basel, and the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Instead, Black people are greeted by thousands of cops, paddy wagons, police watch-towers, DUI checkpoints, cameras scanning their license plates, and a healthy dose of racial profiling.
It’s no wonder some African-Americans stayed away from Miami Beach this time around. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau projected Miami Beach hotels were only 76, 77, and 72 percent full Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, compared with 82, 90, and 85 percent during the same three-day period last year. Who wants to vacation in a city where the politicians and a vocal minority of racist residents treat you like a savage?
Earlier this year, I met with Bower and told her the city needed to take ownership of Memorial Day weekend with an organized event — maybe something like the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, which offers a mix of hip-hop, R&B, and jazz. She ignored my advice and locked down the city. Luckily, no one was shot this Memorial Day weekend despite the overwhelming cop presence. And arrests were down from last year (321 from 332).
But putting up barricades and police checkpoints is an insult to the Black people who came to enjoy a weekend getaway on Ocean Drive. It’s not cool to make them feel like criminals while taking their tourism dollars. So Kingston or Nassau should be looking pretty good right now.