The police reports paint a scary picture of the scene that led up to four anti-police violence protesters getting arrested at a rally in front of Florida International University.
A woman called 911, according to reports. She said her white vehicle had been “surrounded” and “assaulted by a large crowd” of protesters. A Miami-Dade detective personally witnessed the assault, reads the reports.
There’s just one problem: The 911 call does not match up with the police reports on multiple fronts.
In these uncertain times, you can rely on WLRN to keep you current on local news and information. Your support is what keeps WLRN strong. Please become a member today. Donate Now. Thank you.
The call came from a man, not from a woman. He reported a single person doing something he thought was unsafe near the entrance of FIU.
“There is a lady on one of the lanes, that she’s jumping in front of the cars,” says the caller.
The 911 operator quickly concludes the call, cutting off the caller mid-speech. The entire exchange is less than 25 seconds, according to a recording of the 911 call obtained by WLRN through a public records request.
No reported crowd of people in the street. No surrounded vehicle. No mention of a white vehicle. No alleged assault.
Dozens of Miami-Dade officers with the county’s “Rapid Deployment Force” team were deployed to the scene following the 911 call, according to the arrest reports. They came equipped with riot gear and quickly declared the gathering an “unlawful assembly.” Officers demanded the protesters leave the area.
By this time, videos captured by the Miami Herald show the group of about 100 protesters had largely dispersed.
The number of officers on the scene dwarfed the roughly dozen protesters who remained. After police gave a five minute warning, four of the protesters were arrested while standing on the sidewalk and chanting. They were charged with refusing orders to disburse an unlawful assembly.
Attorney David Winker, who represents one of the students who was arrested, told WLRN the 911 call recording suggests police were looking for a “pretext” to shut down a constitutionally protected protest by force.
“When you hear that, your immediate thought is — something went on that’s like, ‘Okay we’ve got to break this up,’” said Winker. “The police reports made it seem like people were being threatened by these FIU students, and they were doing something so terrible to these cars. And the pretext for all of that is this 911 call.”
He said the call is in line with what his client told him, and that nobody ever surrounded or attacked a vehicle.
The allegation that there was an “assault” on a car led to his client being immediately taken not to a jail to be booked, but to an interrogation room at a police station where officers asked about “terrorism, Antifa, and ‘who is our leader?’” said Winker.
“She was just so scared it was like — ‘I’m innocent. I’ve gotta talk my way out of this situation which is like everything you’re asking me has nothing to do with my reality,’” he said, paraphrasing his client’s interrogation.
In an emailed response the Miami-Dade Police Department did not respond to the discrepancies between the 911 call and the arrest reports but said, "The individuals that were arrested on June 6, 2020, were arrested for unlawful assembly. The details surrounding the incident are noted in the arrest affidavits ... I’m not able to confirm/disclose what questions, if any, were directed towards the arrestee. Also, keep in mind that all statement provided by the subject, is exempt from public disclosure as stated in [Florida Statues Chapter] 119."
More than an hour passed from the time the 911 call was made to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and when police made the arrests, according to the arrest reports. The caller said he was on the corner of Southwest 16th Street and Southwest 107th Avenue, and the arrests were made on Southwest Eighth Street.
In two police reports, the arresting officers wrote that “it was determined” that the group on Eighth Street was “the same group of protesters” as the ones who were six blocks away an hour earlier. The group did march in that direction.
The protest at FIU was part of a nationwide movement against police violence and for racial justice, following the murder of George Floyd — a Black man in Minneapolis — by a white police officer. The officer has since been charged with second-degree murder.
The state attorney's office told WLRN that by Thursday morning all of the charges against the protesters will be dropped. Three cases have already been dropped and the final case is still in the process, the office said.
One of the reasons videos of the arrests went viral in the first place, said Winker, was that they clearly show police instigating the escalation of events.
“You see these students sitting peacefully on a sidewalk. You see arrests being made to this chorus of ‘Why are you in riot gear? I don’t see no riot here.’ The whole picture is just bothersome,” he said. “We have public school teachers who have better de-escalation skills than these police officers. None of these arrests should have happened.”
This story has been updated with a response from the Miami-Dade Police Department and with an update from the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.