Most gangs in Miami are made up of immigrants who wear the flag of their home country as a token of identity. They are also open to members of all nationalities. Reported gang activity is primarily based in Miami-Dade County, with an estimated 256 gangs ever being established in the county, comprising a total of at least 2,300 gang members. However, since some gangs are undercover, this number may be an underestimation. Gangs may also have as many as 10,000 associate members in total, who are not part of the gangs per se but are often called on to take part in organized crimes.
Not Gang-Related Violence
Violence in Miami is frequent, although not always gang-related. For instance, protests by people demanding justice for George Floyd were initially peaceful but turned violent only a few hours later. The protesters first started at three in the afternoon outside Bayfront Park before being taken to the road and forcing the closure of all traffic lanes near the Miami Police Department Headquarters.
Events rapidly escalated from there. As protesters gathered outside the police headquarters, the scene quickly became chaotic towards nightfall, causing police to use tear gas and a mandatory dispersal order to deal with the crowd. In retaliation, some set fire to the police cars and other vehicles in the vicinity. Soon, the police dispatched their riot control units, marching in two lines into the crowd. Protesters even began to steal from the shops at the nearby Bayside Marketplace.
In response, the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez, issued a mandatory curfew from 10 PM to 6 AM, and the Miami city also issued its own curfew from 10 PM on Saturday and 8 PM to 6 AM on Sunday. The consequence for anyone who violated the curfew was arrest. By midnight on Saturday, the Miami-Dade police had arrested 38 people.
In one of the worst mass shootings in Miami history, fourteen people were shot while attending a funeral on March 30, 2012. Two died from their injuries. Five-year-old Mckayla Bazile was among the survivors, suffering from a gunshot wound to the back of her left leg.
The shooting happened while mourners were leaving after the funeral of Morvin Andre, a 21-year-old man. Andre had died from jumping off a high floor while attempting to escape pursuit by Bloomingdale’s loss prevention employees, which believed that he had used a stolen credit card. While not in a gang himself, Andre had several friends who were gang members and were present at the funeral. Reportedly, at the funeral, someone tried to shake Andre’s hand in a manner that the gang members perceived as disrespectful. A fight then broke out and several of the gang members retrieved their firearms from their vehicle, spraying the crowd with bullets. The perpetrators were never apprehended or identified.
Although it is still disputed whether the violence was gang-based or not, the sheer violence that was present is unmistakable. Unfortunately, the event was not widely reported in international news, partly because these kinds of incidents have become commonplace in Miami.
Child Casualties of Gun Violence
Gun violence is rampant on the streets of Miami, often claiming the lives of innocent children who simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Over just the past few years, hundreds of children and teenagers have been lost to gun violence, most of the time because they caught bullets that were not intended for them. In just 2016, 2 children and 34 teenagers under the age of 19 were killed in Miami-Dade shootings. Most of the reported cases have happened in dominantly black communities, with the shooters still at large.
Twelve-year-old Tequila Forshee was getting her hair braided at her grandmother’s home in Miami Gardens on Aug 4, 2013. She had aspirations of becoming of chef and police detective when she grew up. All of a sudden, her dreams were dashed when gunshots were fired into the house, striking her in the head. To add to the family’s pain, her three younger siblings could only watch helplessly. Tequila’s grandmother, who was shot in the leg, believed that the shooting may have been intended for her son.
In another case, eight-year-old Jada Page took a bullet likely meant for her father. The two were getting ready to go to the movies when a black Ford Fusion drove by the house and someone inside opened fire. Jada was shot in the head while her father was shot in the chest. She was taken to hospital, pronounced brain dead, and died two days later. Law enforcement sources believe that Jada’s father was targeted over a drug deal gone bad, although they were not able to uncover solid evidence. Jada’s great aunt, Lori Hadley-Davis, runs her own funeral home and was the one who prepared the funeral for her own grandniece.
Such is the frequency of these killings, that a support group called Parents of Murdered Kids was created in Miami-Dade and headed by Tangela Sears, a community activist against gun violence and killings of children. The group focuses on advocating for new policies to help crackdown on gun violence and avoid the deaths of more innocent children. However, according to Sears, the families that have suffered losses from gun violence are often disrespected or ignored by the people in power who have the capability to stop gun violence. As an example, during a meeting on the topic, a representative from the mayor’s office of Miami-Dade stated that “everyone has been touched by gun violence in some way”. Sears and the parents replied that while everyone may have been touched by gun violence, not everyone has lost a child to gun violence, which is a “different touch”. If the law enforcement officers and authorities are unable to understand the personal pain and suffering that each victim’s family has gone through, it is unlikely that they will see the need to act on gun violence as soon as possible.
Fortunately, not all have been bleak. Sears and her group successfully advocated for a law to protect the identities of witnesses to gun violence, as these people are often endangered by retaliation if their names are revealed in news reports. She believes that more attention needs to be turned to where the guns come from – the shooters are not buying guns legitimately, but rather stealing them because guns are not being kept securely enough by gun owners. While it can be difficult for cities and communities to make their own laws regarding gun control, these activists hope that more people will realize the dangers that readily accessible guns pose to young children, their families and the community.