Photo Copyright Mike Trainer dba KLS Photos Productions -
The liberties fought for by fallen patriots purportedly honored on Memorial Day were in part celebrated by an unruly and noisy crowd over the weekend in South Beach.
Proudly called 'Black Week' by many promoters, the annual event has been dubbed Urban Beach Week by politically correct public relations consultants even though the multi-racial composition of most urban areas is inadequately represented during Black Week South Beach.
In any event, it is said that Black Week brings up racial issues. And indeed it does, given the fact that the color painting South Beach is 99% black that week, so racism is assumed of this swarming behavior, notwithstanding the fact that reputable scientists have said that skin pigmentation is not a racial factor and that there is really no such thing as particular human races since we are all sorts of mongrels. Of course we noticed some black racist behavior in the crowd, some hateful talk. If someone organized a White Week to celebrate white culture on South Beach, the Klan and lots of patriots would show up, and we would hear cries of racism for sure.
This year's Black Week put Spring Break to shame in terms of licentious behavior - but Super Bowl Weekend was much more of a nuisance than the sum of the previous two. The American Civil Liberties Union was inordinately pleased this year by the level of lawlessness apparently tolerated by the massive, costly police presence. Luckily, the traditional sacrifices of human life by handgun did not occur. And the young ladies stuck together in small packs - last year one of them was abducted and never seen again, probably incinerated or fed to the sharks.
Yes, there were felonies committed, but just how many felonies and their nature went unreported in favor of making the usual understatement that most crimes are misdemeanors and not worth considering by officials who live in nice and safe neighborhoods and want to promote tourism. The number of arrests at 382 was down from the 548 of last year and far below the nearly 1,000 arrests of 2007, although up from the 250 of the first year. That is, the crimes that miscreants were arrested for were down, but that does not say anything about the behavior that was tolerated this year for fear of scaring away business.
Most reporters hid behind their desks and relied on their telephones to collect reports from friendly officials trying to balance the want for sin-taxes with the need for law and order and votes from the increasingly irate residents who believe Miami Beach does not need the trouble of massive drunk and disorderly events, and who long for a return to the golden days of when the beach was a poor man's paradise and an economic place for a family to vacation or send away the elders to for the winter. But this reporter ventured into the thick of it for a little while.
The established press is concerned with giving a favorable report of events that draw tourists, so we always have some whitewashing in the name of balanced and objective reporting. I am not a member of the established press, nor am I omniscient. I do have a few anecdotes to share with the reader, a few isolate experiences one might or might not use to draw broad generalizations about life in South Beach. The truth, whatever it is, will not, as some publishers and city officials fear, scare tourists away. South Beach has been promoted as a party town for some time with great success. Sex, drugs, and hip-hop music are the big draws. Many people are drawn to South Beach to be bad, to commit the very sins their Puritan forefathers might have executed them for in the old days for want of prisons. Miami Beach, by the way, is reportedly one of the top ten most dangerous cities under 100,000 in the nation.
I live in a crime-ridden neighborhood three blocks off Ocean Drive, which runs along the beach. An enterprising inhabitant of the apartment building next door to me was renting out a small space between the building and the sidewalk to a carload of six revelers, all of whom were so drunk they could hardly walk when they got out of their car at 5:00 pm.
Another car, parked illegally across the street, was surrounded by drunken men and women engaged in a violent argument - they had placed a row of empty and half-empty beer bottles along the top of the car. Two squad cars and two other police vehicles whizzed by, apparently responding to a call, as a resident frantically tried to get their attention, pointing at the noisy carousers.
I walked over the Washington Avenue and Seventh Street, and the first thing I saw was three young men with beer bottles in one hand, using their other hands to urinate on a tree in plain sight, while boisterously cursing at cops who had stopped someone nearby - to no avail because the officers were busy - another squad car was attending to some other business across the street.
It was only 5:30 pm by that time, on Saturday evening, but the crowd was growing. Most of them had red cups of beer in their hands. The slogan was "Get drunk on the beach! Get drunk on the beach!"
I noticed two cool dudes, well dressed, with real handcuffs on their right wrists, and thought the cuffs might be a kind of bling signifying a challenge to cops. Or maybe they wanted to get married.
Anyway, I hung out with the crowd for awhile. Most of the people were well behaved at that early stage, but the ones on the fringes were downright scary. And I really do not like crowds and drunks, anyway, no matter what color they are, so I retreated.
I received a call a few hours later, from a woman who was holed up in her condo near Collins Avenue. She said the noise was deafening, far worse than any previous year, and that the police were not enforcing the noise code. She wanted the phone number for the police department's code enforcement division.
"I have the number, but you're not going to get through to them," I said. "Their phone is ringing off the wall with complaints by now."
"I don't care. I want to make a report. This is about statistics, and I want to be a statistic."
I spoke with her the next day. Her call did not get into the statistics because, she said, the answering system had been turned off. She fled her building for Ft. Lauderdale at 8:00 am the next day, and said she was "shocked by the many prostitutes" outside her building. When I responded that many nightclubbing women dress like prostitutes nowadays, she said she was talking about real prostitutes, for she saw the deals going down, and the scene reminded her of movies about the most vulgar and sordid places in cities.
Code Enforcement, however, cracked down on illegal vending and on the dumping of event advertisements on the sidewalks. But there was no crackdown on dog waste, which regularly piles up everywhere, especially in the areas between 7th and 5th Streets, the old crack hood now sometimes referred to as 'The Toilet.' The visitors certainly noticed it when they stepped on it. By the way, the best way to get it off the shoes is to rub them in the dirt, first of all, then on the grass.
The ever-popular Lincoln Road, with its toni shops and chic eateries, was a virtual ghost town. It has not been the same during Black Week since the murders that took place beside a popular Cuban restaurant during Black Week 2007.
Hotel business was up on the Drive but other business was reportedly down. There were uncorroborated reports of gunfire on the beach, and mobs tore through sidewalk cafes along Ocean Drive, trashing some of them. Consequently, there were unprecedented closings along the Drive for safety reasons.
The mob behavior this year will certainly fuel future fears about racially motivated behavior. That fear is overblown, a remnant of the fear of slave uprisings and urban riots in black neighborhoods. Yet it is not the color of the crowd that is the problem in South Beach, but the fact that a drunken crowd can turn into a disorderly mob. Tolerated misbehavior may reinforce misbehavior until it is intolerable, and then a crackdown might result in a bloody riot with hundreds of tourists and dozens of cops seriously injured. I think the city is over the barrel now: if it tries to rid itself of Black Week after encouraging it, South Beach may be completely trashed.
Better yet to have a Memorial Day Beer Fest for Black Week: set up huge tents on one end of the beach, bring in the hip-hop entertainers, and let cheap beer flow at hundreds of gallons per hour. Keep the crowd penned up and happy, with ample toilets, vomit areas, and mats to pass out on. Troublemakers can be arrested and locked down behind a fenced-in area on the other end of the beach.
Right now, the bottom line for South Beach residents: Fear not for the future unless you live in the thick of it, and then you can either enjoy it, or go to another beach for Memorial Day. If you stay four or more blocks away from Ocean Drive, you may not even notice anything unusual except for more towing of illegally parked cars.
June 7, 2010
David Arthur Walters
Words & Numbers
Copyright Mike Trainer dba KLS Photos Production