We all know there isn’t a whole lot of lost love between myself and the Miami Police Department, but I was very impressed with a small group of officers last night during a very hectic protest.
More than 500 people, mostly Cubans, had come out to Versailles Cuban Restaurant in Little Havana to either voice their support or opposition for the Juanes concert that was held in Havana on Sunday.
If you’re not from Miami, this concert might barely have registered a blip on your radar, but down here it was huge news because of the passions involved in Cuban politics.
The majority of the protesters were voicing support for the concert, saying that it was a step in the right direction for the Cuban people. And they are right.
But there were about 200 protesters from the right-wing hardline sector of Miami that believes that Juanes is a communist and a traitor and a puppet to the Castro regime.
These are also the same people who assaulted me and accused me of being a Cuban spy to a local newspaper because I happened to exchange words with some Code Pink protesters during a demonstration last year.
So there is not a whole lot of lost love between us either.
Now they don’t say a word to me, even if I photograph them. They now know better.
Anyway, these two groups spent hours demonstrating last night; screaming at each other, threatening each other and in some cases, punching and kicking each other.
And there were only five Miami police officers assigned to this madness.
One officer told me this was because they had just laid off 125 officers the previous week, so they were severely shorthanded.
Their job was to ensure these demonstrators be allowed to express their First Amendment rights but without letting them trample on each others’ First Amendment rights, which is not the easiest thing to do when it comes to Cuban politics.
But these five officers managed to keep a relative peace throughout the night, only arresting three people although they probably could have arrested more if they wanted. But that would have incensed the crowd even more, so they spent several hours breaking up arguments, ordering people off the streets (including me a few times) and doing their best to keep the two factions on either side of the street.
The only people they arrested was one guy for allegedly exposing himself, another guy for allegedly punching a woman and another guy who continually walked to the opposing side to make threats.
And those arrests were handled professionally.
I had spent about three hours taking photos and I was drenched in sweat, so I know these cops were fatigued as well. But they still kept their cool.
I talked to a few of the officers during the melee and told them they were doing a good job. It was the only time I saw them smile last night.
So I just wanted to tell everybody else as well.