South Floridians gathered in front of the Torch of Friendship memorial in downtown Miami on Sunday to show support for the residents of Ferguson, Mo., against the killing of an unarmed black teen.
The rally was held in honor of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was shot by officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. The killing has sparked protests throughout the county. Funeral services for Brown start Monday.
Signs were held toward passing motorists with messages of solidarity with the people of Ferguson. Those with megaphones on the sidewalk took to chanting justice for Brown and against police using military-grade weapons.
“Mike Brown is the reason that we are out here today and the overly militarized police that’s attacking the people of Ferguson,” says Cassia Laham, a high school teacher from Broward County who took part in the rally.
Laham is also a member of People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism and Racism, one of the organizations that helped organize the rally.
“If these are military materials, who exactly are you at war with? And the answer becomes it’s the people. Especially the people of color in this country,” Laham says.
About 30 people were present at the rally.
Claudio Galaz, a Florida International University student studying history, was at the event. He says police officers in South Florida can abuse their power.
“The police here in Miami is known for being corrupt. About a year ago it happened something very similar with Israel Hernandez [sic]. Justice has still not been served,” Galaz says, referring to an 18-year-old who died after getting hit with a Taser by a Miami Beach police officer last year.
Hallandale resident Mathew Daiagi says there is a more militarized police force in South Florida when he saw a safety awareness demonstration at a local shopping center recently that displayed advanced weapons and gear.
“If you're going to arm the police in the same way you arm the military, that’s a worthless distinction to make,” Daiagi says. “You give a cop an assault rifle over a baton, a Taser or even a pistol, he’s going to start acting more like a soldier because of what he’s got in his arms or his hands.”
Daigi, a member of One Struggle, an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist organization that also helped put the protest together, says the nation’s conversation about the militarization of police is changing and officers are taking note.
"They know what’s going on. They are essentially trotting these out and saying ‘these are our toys. You’ve seen them on the news recently and they are here to stay,'" he says.