About 75 people gathered in downtown Miami Thursday evening to protest and stand in solidarity against the killing of Michael Brown. The black teenager was shot and killed Saturday by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
A group called the Dream Defenders and other activists marched a few blocks to the James Lawrence King Federal Justice Building, chanting lines like "hands up, don't shoot."
The Miami protesters empathized with Ferguson residents, having just passed the first anniversary of the death of Israel "Reefa" Hernandez's death at the hands of police.
Attendee Steven Pargett and others demanded punishment for the police officer responsible for the tasering incident that led to Hernandez’s death in Miami Beach.
“If you look at Ferguson, Missouri, this is connected. Mike Brown is connected to Israel Hernandez. Israel Hernandez is connected to Eric Gardner in New York,” said Steven, referring to the man who died while in a choke hold by a New York City police officer.
In the lobby of the justice building, the group demanded a meeting with South Florida’s U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer to talk about how police use force, particularly against kids of color. That meeting never happened.
Several people gave speeches in the lobby. Sherika Shaw was one of them. She says the underlying issue is a culture that systemically criminalizes people of color.
“We were told that you go to college,” she says, “we were told you follow all the rules. We were told all these things that we’re finding out are lies. So, we don’t want the lie anymore, we want to create a new reality.”
At 5:30 p.m., when the federal building closed for the day, the crowd moved outside. Eight stayed inside in an act of civil disobedience. They were all arrested.