By Sunday night, curfews in virtually all major U.S. cities had been lifted. In Minneapolis, where protests and unrest in response to the death of George Floyd started, the curfew had been lifted on Friday. Washington D.C. had already lifted its restrictions last Thursday, and New York City followed suit by Sunday morning.
But in Miami-Dade, a county and metropolitan area where even the federal government expected large scale unrest that never came, a countywide curfew remained in place.
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Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Monday that he would lift the curfew. But his handling of the situation has generated some pushback.
“Let’s call this out for what it is. It’s the government and this mayor trying to shift anger away from systematic racism and people focusing their anger now on the peaceful protests,” said Erik Gomez, a 19-year-old student at Kent State University who is at home for the summer in Kendall.
Gomez started an online petition that has garnered about 1,000 signatures calling on Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to end the nightly curfews.
Ever since two Saturdays ago, protests in Miami-Dade have been non-violent and without looting or incidents. A few arrests were made this weekend — when a gathering near Florida International University was declared an “unlawful assembly — but besides that incident, police have largely not been making arrests. Gatherings have largely happened without the major incidents seen in other large U.S. cities.
The protests have also stayed mostly centered in downtown Miami and the surrounding area, prompting Gomez to question why the entire county, from Homestead to Hialeah, the beaches and beyond, needed to stay under restrictions.
For Gomez, the obvious answer seems political.
“What he’s trying to do is get into our heads and say: Well I’m mad that I can’t go out because there’s curfew. Oh, it’s because of these protesters,” said Gomez.
Last week at a press conference, Mayor Gimenez defended keeping the curfew in place. The curfew was set to midnight at the time, but it has since alternated to 10 p.m. and 9 p.m., often with less than an hour's notice.
“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” Gimenez said. “It also discourages groups from getting together after midnight when it’s a lot tougher for law enforcement to spot people.”
Restaurant owners and workers expressed frustration about the constantly changing curfew hours, as they move to reopen their restaurants due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Chef Michael Beltran, the owner of Coconut Grove’s Ariete restaurant, told the Miami Herald that police showed up to his restaurant at 11 p.m., after Gimenez pushed Friday’s curfew to 10 p.m. without warning.
He also suggested that the curfew was an “unconstitutional” attempt to stifle the freedom of expression.
“It is against every American ideal I have ever stood for,” said Beltran.