Hundreds Arrested As Miami Rioting Continues
MIAMI (AP) _ Rioters set fires and looted stores early today as 700 police officers poured into two black neighborhoods, arresting hundreds in an attempt to halt two days of racial violence in which two people have died.
The violence eased toward dawn, enabling police to reduce their presence.
The riots, which began Monday night in the Overtown section following the shooting death of a black motoryclist by a police officer there, spread to the Liberty City neighborhood Tuesday. The violence, which broke out as Miami made final preparations for Sunday’s Super Bowl, forced the cancellation of a National Basketball Association game Tuesday night.
″Things have quieted a lot since about 2 a.m.,″ said police spokesman David Rivero. ″We have pulled back some of the blockades.″
Rivero said some sections of Overtown’s business district were still closed to traffic at 6:30 a.m., but most roads were open in the mostly residential Liberty City area.
Two fires were burning in Liberty City at dawn, including a church that was being allowed to burn to the ground, Rivero said.
The U.S. Justice Department began an investigation of the cyclist’s shooting, which led to the death of the man’s passenger after the motorcyle crashed. The city also was investigating the shooting; the City Council convened for an emergency session today.
″For the sake of our city, I appeal to every citizen, regardless of race to stay calm, get off the streets and stay in your homes,″ said Mayor Xavier Suarez in a televised appeal Tuesday night.
Police, who earlier had stood by to protect lives and property, took a more assertive role late Tuesday, arresting troublemakers. By early today, 250 arrests had been made, mostly for burglaries, said police Sgt. Michael Mazur. The suspects were being held at the Dade County Jail pending bail hearings, according to a jail spokeswoman who would not give her name.
The 1 1/2 square mile Overtown section and a small part of Liberty City were cordoned off by police. The decision to sweep through the areas and make arrests came after sniping incidents increased, police said.
In Liberty City, northwest of Overtown, a 16-year-old black youth was killed late Tuesday in a shooting apparently unrelated to the rioting. Metro- Dade police Sgt. John Roper said Troy Robinson was shot to death during an argument over a stolen check-printing marchine. Howard Scippio, 37, of Miami, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
In Overtown, just north of downtown, two people were shot Tuesday, one of them in the leg by police. Five others were shot in Liberty City, including a police officer who was wearing a bulletproof vest and was not seriously injured by sniper fire.
A white man in a luxury car fired a gun into a crowd of rock-throwing blacks early Tuesday afternoon, wounding a 19-year-old man who was hospitalized in fair condition.
Gunfire and rock-throwing in the area of Miami Arena, which is in Overtown, forced the postponement of Tuesday night’s NBA game between the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns.
A meat truck, furniture stores and several smaller stores were looted, Mazur said. The Liberty City community center was set ablaze as were at least a half dozen other buildings.
A white motorist whose car broke down was beaten but managed to run toward police for protection, and an Associated Press photographer was roughed up by a mob and his car torched.
″I saw someone coming around a building and throwing rocks, and I said ’Let’s go, get out of here,‴ said photographer Mark Pesetsky, who escaped after police fired tear gas at the crowd.
At least two other beatings were reported, and several people were treated for lacerations, Jackson Memorial Hospital officials said.
Police worked 17-hour shifts and ran out of riot bags, equipped with a gas mask, shield, baton, helmet and handcuffs. Weary officers arrived at Miami police headquarters downtown, hoping for a respite in the violence.
Most Miamians remained unaffected by the rioting, which was confined to a relatively small portion of the central city.
The closest many got to the riot scene was on Interstate 95, which passes over the western edge of Overtown, or on the Dolphin Expressway, which intersects I-95 near the troubled area. Motorists could see and smell smoke from fires set by rioters and there were isolated incidents of rocks and bottles being thrown at cars.
The violence erupted following the shooting death of 23-year-old Clement Anthony Lloyd during a police pursuit. A passenger on the motorcycle, Allen Blanchard, 24, died Tuesday.
Lloyd was shot in the head by Officer William Lozano, a four-year police veteran who was investigating an unrelated incident when Lloyd sped by, authorities said.
Lloyd and Blanchard were unarmed and were being pursued for a speeding violation, said police spokesman Angelo Bitsis.
Within hours, a mob of blacks surrounded the crash scene and began throwing rocks and bottles.
Lozano, 29, a Colombian immigrant who had been on the squad for three years, was automatically suspended with pay pending an investigation.
The U.S. Justice Department ordered the FBI to investigate the shooting.
Suarez also promised an investigation and said he would name an independent review panel of private citizens, who could meet as early as today.
″We will not rest until we come to the bottom of what happened to spark this riot,″ Suarez added.
School officials said six Overtown schools closed after the first night of riots would reopen today.
Overtown is about 15 miles from Joe Robbie Stadium, site of the Super Bowl. The Cincinnati Bengals, who play the San Francisco 49ers in the National Football League championship game, are staying less than a mile from Overtown, at the Omni Hotel.
Some community leaders blamed the violence on what is perceived in the black community as favoritism toward Hispanic refugees.
″In this tremendous influx of refugees from Central and South America, the African-Americans have felt cheated. We felt we were losing our place in the city,″ said Johnnie McMillian, president of the Miami-Dade branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The violence recalled bloody riots in Liberty City in 1980 and Overtown in 1982 following incidents in which black men were shot to death by police.