It was inevitable. There is too large a police presence in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood and the attitudes of some of the officers there are too aggressive for me to be able to live and work in the community for long without being harassed.
Today was the day. This morning I was physically assaulted by a Miami Police Department officer. I’m still not sure exactly what I did to provoke her.
The video above clearly shows what happened – I was on a public sidewalk outside of a yellow police tape that had been put up to designate a crime scene. I attempted to shoot video of the police officers working the area and interacting with neighborhood residents when WHAM! Suddenly Officer J. Mayorga, Badge Number 4212, decided that I didn’t say “How high?” quickly enough when she said “Jump!” So she came after me. Perhaps Ms. Mayorga doesn’t like cameras or doesn’t like photographers or woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, but whatever her motivation, her actions were clearly unreasonable, illegal and a violation of my civil rights.
Sadly, it seems that some Miami Police Department officers will stop at nothing, including drawing their weapons and shooting unarmed citizens, in order to assert their authority in Overtown and the surrounding, primarily black, neighborhoods.
One would think that an officer working a double shooting just as school busses are picking up children in the neighborhood would have better things to do than harass and physically assault a bystander shooting video with an iPhone on a public sidewalk.
But as a new resident of Overtown, I am quickly learning that some members of the Miami Police Department have priorities other than what the department claims to be its “core values,” including “Respect for the rules of law and the dignity of all human beings.” If these officers say up is down, down is up and the sky is green I’d better agree with them and do so quickly, because my dignity, the rules of law and my rights as a citizen extend only as far as these individuals’ emotional whims and personal prejudices.
My run in with Ms. Mayorga is just another example of how the police culture in Miami is out of control. It is a culture produces officers who are reactive rather than proactive, and whose reactions, even when thoughtless and disproportionate, are accepted and even encouraged by their colleagues and superiors. (Click here and here for more examples of how Miami police and armed private security guards harass photographers. Click here to read about the lawsuit photojournalist Carlos Miller has filed in response.)
My experience with police harassment in Overtown is insignificant relative to what the permanent residents of Overtown endure on a daily basis. My heart goes out to these people, Miami’s “Towners for Life,” but as the folks say in the video below, “This Is Overtown.”