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Miami Beach Extends Emergency Curfew as Spring Breakers Overwhelm City

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  • Miami Beach extended its 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew until April 12 in an effort to fight off an influx of spring break crowds.
  • The curfew was initially put in place for 72 hours starting Sunday, but it was expanded after recent crowds packed entire streets, started fights, destroyed property, and in at least one instance, fired shots into the air, prompting police in riot gear to break out pepper spray.
  • The curfew represents a major concession for state and local leaders, who encouraged people to visit despite rising COVID-19 cases in the state and the Miami-beach area specifically, which was recently one of the worst-hit places in the country.

Miami Beach’s Party Problem

Officials in Miami Beach moved Sunday to extend a curfew in parts of the city for at least three weeks in an effort to crack down on spring breakers.

Over the last several weeks, the city has been packed with partiers ignoring social distancing and masking guidelines. In fact, officials have said that this year, there have been more visitors and more disruptions than in previous years despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Police have reported fights breaking out, property destruction, and several stampedes, including one that was started after someone fired gunshots into the air. According to the Miami Beach Police Department, since early February, about 1,000 arrests have been made and 80 firearms have been seized.

Notably, around 51% of arrests involved non-Florida residents, and police in neighboring cities have sent officers to help crowd management.

The situation escalated last week and culminated heading into the weekend. Videos showed thousands of people openly drinking, dancing, and partying in the streets, shoulder-to-shoulder on the city’s iconic Ocean Drive.

The city imposed a state of emergency and an 8 p.m. curfew in the entertainment district Saturday night, but that failed to stop the partiers. Police then responded by sending in SWAT teams and personnel from multiple law enforcement agencies in riot gear, who broke up crowds with pepper balls.

The move has drawn criticism, especially from Black activists and advocacy groups in the city, who claimed many of the people they dispersed were Black. City officials have argued they were targeting conduct, not groups of people, and that police had fired the pepper balls after a group rushed them.

Curfew Extended

On Sunday, Miami Beach authorities moved to extend the curfew — which was initially set for 72 hours — until April 12, when spring break usually ends. The leaders also voted to extend the state of emergency until at least Monday evening. 

Under the current rules, Ocean Drive will be closed to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. four nights a week, with exceptions for residents, hotel visitors, and employees in the area. Bridges and other main causeways into the city will also be blocked.

Many have said the move marks a major concession for Miami Beach and Florida at large, where both state and city leaders have been heavily encouraging tourists to come. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has recently bragged about how open the state is in an attempt to bring more tourists to Florida’s traditional spring break hot spots.

These efforts have continued despite the fact that Miami-Dade County, which houses Miami Beach, has recently seen one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country. Florida — which currently ranks in the top 10 states for highest cases per capita and has seen increases in the last few weeks — is also believed to be the state with the largest concentration of the highly contagious and possibly more lethal U.K. strain.

In addition to worries about continued spikes in Florida as a result of the influx of spring breakers, experts have also expressed concern that the visitors will bring back new cases — and most alarming, new strains — to their home states when they return.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)

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Florida Appeals Court Grants Officers Involved in Shootings Privacy Protections Under Marsy’s Law

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  • A Florida appeals court sided with a local police union Tuesday, ruling that a state constitutional amendment known as Marsy’s Law can shield the identities of officers who shoot suspects if the officers are threatened during those incidents — an argument often made in police shootings.
  • Marsy’s Law grants privacy protections to victims of crimes, and a trial court previously sided with the city of Tallahassee and media, saying it could not interpret the law “to shield police officers from public scrutiny of their official actions.”
  • Lawyers representing the media called the new ruling a “setback for police accountability.”
  • The appeals court, however, argued that privacy protections would not stop an internal affairs investigation, grand jury proceedings, or stop a state attorney from later deciding that an officer was not a victim in a specific case.

Case That Lead To Appeals Court Ruling

Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals unanimously decided Tuesday that municipalities cannot make the names of officers who shoot citizens public if the officers themselves were crime victims.

According to Axios, that is almost always the argued case in police shootings.

The ruling stems from a case involving two Tallahassee officers who fatally shot a suspect in separate incidents. Florida’s Police Benevolent Association, the police union representing the two officers, argued in a lawsuit that the city shouldn’t release any information that would personally identify them as the shooters.

They cited Florida’s 2018 constitution amendment, called Marsy’s Law, which grants privacy rights to crime victims. They argued that the amendment applied to these officers because they were allegedly threatened in these use-of-force incidents.

The city and news media, however, argued that the documents identifying the two officers were public records under the Florida constitution. They also argued that officers acting in their official capacities cannot be victims.

The trial court had sided with the city and media, saying that the court “cannot interpret Marsy’s Law to shield police officers from public scrutiny of their official actions.”

It also added that the language of the law was not intended to apply to officers acting in their official capacity.

The police union appealed that ruling and the three-judge panel of the appeals court unanimously sided with the officers, saying that Marsay’s Law does not exclude “law enforcement officers … from the protections granted crime victims.”

Because of this, the judges said an officer who is a victim has the right to keep confidential, “information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim.”

What Does This Mean for Police Accountability?

The judges said that keeping an officer’s identity private wouldn’t stop an internal affairs investigation or a grand jury proceeding. It also wouldn’t stop a state attorney from later deciding the officer was not a victim and bringing charges.

Still, a lawyer representing media organization issued a statement criticizing the ruling.

“Today’s decision was an unfortunate setback for police accountability. We respectfully disagree with the court’s reasoning and are considering our options,” Tampa lawyer Mark Caramanica said in a prepared statement.

See what others are saying: (News4) (Tampa Bay Times) (RawStory)

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Minneapolis Police Chief Testifies Against Derek Chauvin

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  • In a highly unusual move, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo on Monday testified against former officer Derek Chauvin, who faces murder and manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd. 
  • In his testimony, Chief Arradondo said that Chauvin violated a number of departmental policies when he kneeled on Floyd’s neck, including rules on reasonable force, neck restraints, non-violent de-escalation, and rendering aid. 
  • Arradondo is now the highest-ranking public safety official to testify in the trial. It is rare for a police chief to take the witness stand against a fellow officer.
  • Experts said his testimony underscores the difficulty Chauvin’s defense will have in persuading the jury he did his job before, during, and after he kneeled on Floyd’s neck.

Chief Arradondo Testimony

The second week of the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck, began Monday with a rare testimony from Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.

It is unusual for a police chief to take the witness stand against a fellow officer and even more unusual for one to offer such sharp rebukes of a former employee.

In his testimony, Arradondo said  Chauvin violated several departmental policies when he kneeled on Floyd’s neck. 

The most important part of the testimony came from Arradondo’s remarks on defensive tactics and reasonable force. When shown a picture of Chauvin using the neck restrain on Floyd and asked by prosecutors if that was part of the department’s training, the chief said it was not.

“A conscious neck restraint by policy mentions light to moderate pressure,” he said. “When I look [at the picture], when I look at the facial expression of Mr. Floyd, that does not appear in any way, shape, or form that that is light to moderate pressure.”

“I absolutely agree that violates our policy,” he added.

Arradondo also noted that in order for use of force to be considered reasonable, it has to be applied throughout the entire encounter and a number of factors need to be taken into account, including the threat to the officer and others.

“There’s an initial reasonableness in trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds,” he said. “But once there was no longer any resistance, and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way, shape, or form is anything that is by policy, it is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.” 

Ongoing Trial

Chief Arradondo is now the highest-ranking public safety officer to testify against Chauvin. 

His testimony emphasizes the attempts of law enforcement officials to distance themselves from the former officer’s actions. As The New York Times wrote, the chief’s testimony “underscored the difficulty that Mr. Chauvin and his lawyers will have in persuading the jury that the officer was just doing his job when he pinned Mr. Floyd to the ground with his knee for more than nine minutes last May.”

That point is especially notable because in his questioning of Arradondo, Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, focused on the claim that the police department’s policies gave officers some room to determine the reasonableness of the use of force on a case-by-case basis, which the chief agreed with.

Still, in addition to holding firm that Chauvin did not use reasonable force in this case, Arradondo also emphasized that Chauvin violated department procedures on a number of policies. . For example, he noted that the former officer went against policies for non-violent de-escalation and rendering first aid, which the officers involved failed to give after detecting that Floyd did not have a pulse. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NBC News) (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

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Students Watched Footage of George Floyd’s Death for Assignment on Derek Chauvin’s Trial

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  • As part of a class assignment, freshman students at a Texas high school were required to act as jurors in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is currently facing murder charges over his role in the death of George Floyd.
  • Parents complained about the assignment, which involved their children watching graphic footage of Floyd’s encounter with police, watching 45 minutes of Chauvin’s trial each day, and not being allowed to discuss the case with anyone for at least six weeks.
  • In a letter to the school, parents said, “This murder seen by millions around the globe was triggering and traumatizing for adults. Yet, you left students to handle their own emotions and mental health as they left your class, without proper and professional support.”
  • The school’s principal agreed that the assignment was not age-appropriate, and the district said the unapproved lesson has been removed.

Class Assignment Sparks Outrage

A Texas high school is facing criticism from parents over a class assignment regarding the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd— a death that sparked worldwide protests and discussion about racism and police brutality.

A teacher at Cedar High School in Dallas reportedly assigned their freshman students to watch the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is facing second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter charges after kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.

Watching that trial meant the children also had to see graphic images and footage of the incident.

According to parents, the teacher never asked for their consent to carry out such an assignment. Parents, however, eventually learned about what was going on and wrote to the school, arguing that the trial could impact the mental health of their 14 and 15-year-old children.

“It is unfathomable to me that you felt it appropriate to force my child to watch George Floyd’s murder on television in your classroom and then move on with his day as if nothing had happened,” the letter to the school read, according to a local ABC station.

“This murder seen by millions around the globe was triggering and traumatizing for adults. Yet, you left students to handle their own emotions and mental health as they left your class, without proper and professional support.”

School Responds

The teacher, who has not been named, responded to the parental complaints with an outline of the project. That breakdown laid out plans for students to watch the trial for about 45 minutes each day because they would be “acting as actual jurors in the trial.”

“Therefore, every day, your child will be attentive to the actual trial, listening and paying attention to the evidence of both sides, defense and prosecution, during the trial,” the teacher explained.

The teacher’s memo even said the students were not allowed to speak with anyone about the case for at least six weeks, adding, “They may not text discuss what they hear with friends, siblings, or relatives – not even the family dog.”

In response to the growing outrage, Cedar Hill Independent School District officials issued a statement saying they were aware of the assignment.

“The assignment was not approved by campus or district administrators,” the school district told ABC News. “The matter has been addressed with the teacher, and the assignment was removed.”

In a separate response to parents, Cedar High School Principal Jason Miller wrote, “I don’t feel that viewing and discussing this case in school is age-appropriate for scholars.”

See what others are saying: (ABC News) (Insider) (WFAA)

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