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‘Back Up, Back Up’: Miami Beach Police Ordered to Stop Enforcing Law of Arresting Bystanders Filming Cops Following a String of Arrests of Only Black People

Miami Beach’s new law aimed at protecting police officers from onlookers interfering with their duties, including arrests, is now being scrutinized by members of the public who claim the rule is being unfairly applied. The announcement comes after a Black woman was handcuffed for filming a police officer executing an arrest on South Beach late last month.

On Friday, Aug. 20, the Miami Beach Police Department told the Miami Herald that “At the directive of the Police Chief [Richard Clements], MBPD temporarily suspended the enforcement of CMB Ordinance 70-8 until all Miami Beach officers receive additional, in-person training on the nuances of the ordinance.”

Screenshot surveillance footage/Miami Beach Police

MBPD spokesperson Ernesto Rodriquez continued, “As a result, there have been no arrests pursuant to this ordinance since July 26.” This news comes following yet another case of an aggressive arrest made by the MBPD. 

Mariyah Maple was in town from New York on July 25 when she was pepper-sprayed and later arrested after using her phone to video record a traffic stop being conducted by officers near the 600 block of Collins Avenue. 

The arrest report obtained by the outlet marked Maple as part of a group that “refused officers commands” to back away from cops making an arrest. However, a video recording of the incident told a different story.  

The 27-year-old was instead standing peacefully on a sidewalk. She was given orders from Sgt. Vincent Stella to “back up. Back up” However, before she had the chance, Stella appeared to push Maple back with his bicycle that was being used as a “physical barrier” and struck Maple’s hand.

Within three seconds of that maneuver, Stella unleashes his pepper spray on Maple, who is then seen running off. Moments later, the woman was seen being treated by her family when another officer identifies her. They detained and charged Maple under the recent 70-8 law. 

The city commission passed the local ordinance unanimously on June 23, making it a crime to stand within 20 feet of officers with the “intent to impede, provoke or harass” them. However, many have accused the law of only affecting Black people. 

Out of the 13 people arrested since the new rule has been enacted, all have been Black, and most still face criminal charges despite the latest suspension. As with the case of Maple, it is the third time video footage has contradicted the department’s official report on people charged under the new order.  

“We’re turning bystanders and good Samaritans into criminals,” Kara Gross, the legislative director and senior policy attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said of the ordinance. “The ACLU opposes any efforts by law enforcement to adopt and utilize legislation as a tool for targeting and criminalizing Black and brown communities.”

Not much was known about this new guideline until a hotel arrest last month that left New York natives Khalid Vaughn and Sharif Cobb, both of whom are Black, with injuries including lacerations to the face and a swollen lip went viral. 

Vaughn and Cobb had been recording the brutal arrest of a third Black man they didn’t know, Dalonta Crudup. The men detailed how they were beaten and arrested under the 70-8 law in a series of interviews.

Much like Maple’s incident, police reporting did not match with video footage. Prosecutors subsequently dropped the charges against both men and filed misdemeanor battery charges against the five police officers who had been at the scene. 

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