As Memorial Day approaches this weekend in the city of Miami, the residents again face a familiar conundrum. The annual celebration, which has become known as Urban Beach Week is one of the largest African American gatherings in Miami-Dade County. The several day event is considered to be the largest Urban Festival in the world of its type. This distinction has not come without controversy. In 2011, twelve officers were found to be justified in the death of a motorist during the festivities. During the 2016 celebrations over 100 were arrested, as law enforcement dealt with crowds estimated to be as large as 200,000.
The increased law enforcement presence has even led some in the community to claim racist practices by the Miami Beach police department. Increased rates for parking, and traffic changes have become normal practice on Miami Beach during the weekend. These factors have led some to estimate that law enforcement and city officials are purposefully attempting to deter African-American visitors from visiting the beach during the festivities. “It’s police and more police” says life-long resident of Miami, Monterio Lee. All of that is the negative. But the narrative has changed in the minds of some after the tragedy of 2011. The relationship between law enforcement and partiers is on the mend. Despite the numerous arrests last year, it appears that the city including law enforcement is looking forward to embracing the many who plan to visit later this week. Lee says, “It’s just not what it used to be”. The increase in policing is due to the many instances of violence, sexual harassment, and criminality that unfortunately accompany the event.
With the narrative slowly changing both from the perspective of law enforcement and party-goers, the hope is that this event can have a happy medium for both groups. Many from the little community of Goulds, just south of metro Miami-Dade County, travel the relatively short distance to enjoy the concerts, parties, and good times on the beach. In some ways the city of Goulds itself has gone through similar circumstances, bad press over the last few years has led to a somewhat negative view of the city. The crimes of a few have ultimately caused a negative view of the city as a whole. In the case of Urban Beach Week, it is the actions of out of town visitors. In the case of Goulds, many feel the crime spiked after residents from other parts of Miami were moved into the community after Hurricane Andrew in 1993.