OUR OPINION: MIAMI BEACH CAN PROTECT ITSELF AND
REMAIN WELCOMING, TOO
Miami Beach officials didn't have to broadcast to hip-hoppers who converged on the city for Memorial Day weekend that they have worn the welcome mat pretty thin. The 1,000-plus arrests during that long weekend said it all.
No city should stand for drunken, rowdy behavior that endangers other tourists and locals. Beach police were right to act to keep it in check. However, officers made almost twice the number of arrests this year than they did last year. This calls into question whether the heavy show of force was an overreaction to minor infractions committed during the predominantly black, fun-in-the-sun event and an implicit message that these revelers -- including the majority of law-abiding visitors among them -- no longer are welcome.
Before the city bolts the door on hip-hop weekend, it should at least consider the Beach's history as an unwelcoming playground for blacks. A generation of locals still remembers being able to clean its hotel rooms but not stay in them.
The city should make clear that its message remains: Everyone is welcome. Troublemakers stay home or you will be dealt with accordingly.
Most of the Memorial Day weekend arrests -- 85 percent -- were for misdemeanors -- drinking in public and disorderly conduct. But instead of issuing warnings, the police made ar rests. Beach officials could not have been shocked that such minor offenses were bound to occur.
The weekend remains a lucrative one for hundreds of businesses on the Beach and elsewhere locally. Of the county's 50,000 hotel rooms, 90 percent were full that weekend. No doubt hip-hoppers played a big role in that. Next year, surely Miami Beach can find a better balance between being overwhelmed and being overly aggressive.
© 2006 MiamiHerald.com and wire service sources