Miami Riots of 1980
The 1980 race riots in Miami’s Liberty City and Overtown neighborhoods were sparked after the acquittal of four White Miami-Dade police officers who beat a Black motorcyclist to death and attempted to hide the crime.
On May 17, 1980, the mostly-Black neighborhood erupted in violence after an all-white, all-male Tampa jury didn’t find sufficient evidence to convict the cops.
The incident that sparked the rioting occurred on December 17, 1979, when Arthur McDuffie, a U.S. Marine veteran and businessman, was riding his Kawasaki motorcycle through the neighbourhood. The Miami-Dade officers gave him a chase claiming McDuffie was going 80-plus miles per hour.
Officers said McDuffie subsequently lost control of his bike and sped off on foot. According to the officers’ initial reports, McDuffie was involved in a scuffle with the cops with a reported six to eight officers present at the scene.
Later testimony by Officer Charles Veverka revealed that the cops struck McDuffie with nightclubs and their fists until he lay still.
On May 17, the jury acquitted the remaining cops, leading to the riots. Liberty City residents began rioting and burning cars, while reportedly attacking whites in the street. Gov. Bob Graham called in the National Guard.
In three days of rioting, 17 were reported dead and over 1,000 arrested. The area was declared a disaster zone.