Protesters paint a different picture at Art Basel

miami graffiti
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]outh Florida made news this weekend for more than just Art Basel. Protesters swept through Wynwood, Midtown, Interstate 195, and on major roads in


Broward County, joining a nationwide demonstration in the wake of grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City. Both were incidents of fatal police violence against unarmed black males that sparked outrage when the officers in question avoided indictment.

Miami’s well known street art community had its own reason for solidarity against police violence alongside what has become known as the Shut It Down rallies. In August of last year, local graffiti artist Israel “Reefa” Hernandez died after being taser shocked in the chest by a City of Miami Beach police officer. Hernandez was spray painting on an abandoned McDonald’s when police pursued him, and according to the police chief, resisted arrest leading to the taser being deployed.

Friends of Hernandez who witnessed the incident reportedly said the officers on the scene pushed the 18-year-old against the wall before using the taser and high-fived one another as his body lie below them. One of the witnesses used to word “gruesome” while describing it to a local news station.

Hernandez lacked permission to spray paint on the building, however the imbalance of justice prompted an outpouring of support from graffiti communities and police violence activists worldwide. This outpouring reemerged as part of this weekend’s march, with protesters shouting “Reefa lives!” as they blocked traffic in Midtown.

The Facebook page Miami Graffiti told the Miamian, “His death had a huge impact on all of us! His death had a strong tie to the protest this weekend being that Art Basel is an event to commemorate our Miami graffiti artists.”

miami graffiti
Image courtesy of Miami Graffiti

Miami Graffiti has over three thousand “likes,” and catalogues photos of graffiti from locations throughout the city. It is an anonymous advocate of the local street artist scene, and stated that it wants to show people that the art form “is not only about vandalism but about expressing one’s artistic talents.”

“Police brutality is at an all time high” said Miami Graffiti, “and yes he wasn’t shot by a bullet like what happened in Ferguson or choked to death like Eric Garner but his life was still taken at the hands of the police who [are] supposed to be here to protect us, the people.”

Another local graffiti artist was reported to have been run over by a police car while being chased for spray painting without permission. Known to the graffiti community as “Demz,” Delbert Rodriguez Gutierrez, 21, is still in critical condition.

On Friday, the protesters reportedly started marching around 5 p.m. in Midtown. Soon they shut down Interstate 195 for an hour and later North Miami Avenue, where some demonstrators lie silently on the street for several minutes. The next day in Broward County, protesters blocked Las Olas Boulevard, Broward Boulevard, and U.S.1. On Sunday, the march returned to Wynwood and Midtown for the final day of Art Week Miami.


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  1. This is a terribly written and politically biased pro-protester missive that actively supports "protesters" who damage private property and when confronted or apprehended feel that they should be immune from any consequences of their premeditated acts of criminal activity whether it is robbery, theft or vandalism. Hey, here is a thought; if you don't want to be subject to police force then don't commit crimes, or stand around where crimes are being committed. If you do and a cop questions you be nice. If you can't be nice and decide to resist an arrest and get hurt and then blame the cop, then you are just stupid. This article completely puts the entire accountability for violence as a police issue and never even challenges the fact that in many of these cases the officer was defending themselves or was attempting to apprehend someone who they had determined was violating the law. Honestly what should have been done? Should the Ferguson cop allowed Michael Brown to walk away after assaulting a uniformed police officer? Should the Miami cop stand by and allow more buildings to be defaced instead of doing his job to protect the community? BTW, while some people think that graffiti is OK, the rest of us, especially the property owners who have to deal with keeping their homes and businesses as they like them, not decorated by a third party, have no issue with aggressive enforcement of the law. This incredibly poorly written piece shows the liberal slant of every organization that runs it, which as seen in the last election is no longer a popular point of view. My suggestion is that the editors who view a piece such as this better understand that when they accept and publish it, they risk being drug down with the lawless minority who commit crimes and then blame the police for the poor outcome. Given a choice of aggressive police enforcement or anarchy. most Miamians will stand with the cops every time and instead of telling cops to back off, how about telling the criminal minority you have sided with to stop breaking the law and if you are confronted while committing a crime accepting that the outcome may not pleasant if you resist, which is EXACTLY as it should be.

  2. Andre , fitrst of all a teen was killed by doing graffiti on a abandoned building . Keyword abandoned . Yes no one likes there property vandalized and I totally agree with you that some graffiti artists should respect that ,it is private property but not all graffiti artist vandalize private property and simply do it to show off there work of art. This weekend during Art Basel another artist died simply because he was displaying his art , wynwood is an art community and its a week everyone comes out and is doing pretty much the same thing, the cops shouldnt have chased that other guy he was simply doing what everyone else in wwood was doing and running him over like the cops did ,and I mean if the business owners don't like the graffiti on their property around art basel or any other time of year in the wynwood area they obviously found a very wrong place to put there business . Bottom line some cops do take advantage at the fact they have a badge.


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