What started as a peaceful downtown Miami protest calling for the defunding of police, ended with Miami officers blocking Interstate 395 from an oncoming crowd, tear gas being used and protesters running away screaming and in tears.
Just after 10 p.m., videos from Twitter show protests being slowly pushed off I-395 and tear gas deployed by police. A few protesters are seen throwing the gas canisters back at police and engaging them, while most other protesters ran down an off ramp.
It is unclear if there were any injuries, but one video shows a women being carried off the interstate as she screams in pain. The post read, “Police in Miami deploy teargas on BLM protesters who were blocking 395 this evening. Video appears to show at least two people hurt, injuries unclear.”
One protester in that video says police were deploying tear gas.
Miami police told the Miami Herald, “Preliminary info available at this time is that our officers were handling a civil disturbance involving a group of protesters in the Downtown area.”
The protest began at the Torch of Friendship in downtown’s Bayfront Park around 5 p.m. Numbering just over 100, the mostly youthful, multi-ethnic protesters convened for the latest in a series of near-daily demonstrations that have taken place since May 30 in the wake of George Floyd’s death by a Minneapolis policeman.
After unfurling a banner reading “Defund the Police” and blocking Biscayne Boulevard, the protesters marched peacefully in the street south to the Brickell Avenue Bridge, which they briefly occupied.
The protest was called by Protest Miami and Black Power Resistance, among others. It represented an amalgamation of mostly left-leaning groups with varying demands and toting some leftist symbols, including activists who called for the abolishing of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Venezuelans opposing U.S. intervention in the South American country.
On the Brickell bridge, several protesters stood holding a Che Guevara flag and denounced ongoing police brutality against Black people. One demonstrator held a leaf of cardboard with the Communist hammer and sickle symbol painted on it in black. Some protesters on the bridge adopted yoga poses.
Elvira Zamora, a 20-year-old protester who helped organize a demonstration against ICE earlier Saturday, said she wanted to speak up to oppose immigration detention centers in South Florida, just as other organizations have spoken against the police.
Her friend who helped put together the gathering, Marybelle Flores, said she believed Miami’s heavy Latino population should be more vocal about both.
“I think the whole justice system is screwed up,” Flores said.
Despite Florida’s record-breaking number of reported COVID-19 cases, and waning participation in anti-police violence demonstrators and social-media platforms, protesters out on the street Saturday said they were not deterred.
“Going forward, we’re all wearing masks, we’re all ... social distancing,” said Anju Seide, a 24-year-old protester. “The protests are going to continue. We’re not going to stop just because things are normal on your Instagram feeds or social media in general.”
The group proceeded through Brickell without incident before climbing up onto the South Miami Avenue Bridge to cross back to downtown Miami. As protest stragglers blocked the bascule bridge, preventing it from opening for several luxury yachts on the Miami River, they began loudly chanting, “Eat the rich!”