Almost everyone has by now heard the reports detailing the prevalence of racial profiling in the NYC-headquartered department store known as Barney’s. What hasn’t received the same amount of coverage, however, is what’s been happening at a tiny convenient store located in Miami Gardens, Florida, a place where racial profiling is carried out so often and so maliciously by police that the store-owner himself has had enough of it. In the case of the 207 Quick Stop, this tremendous amount of abuse by authorities is hardly relegated to the store’s customers. It extends to the employees as well, even as they try to do their work. The effects that this has had have convinced members of this small Florida community that they cannot remain silent any longer. It’s a case outrageous enough that it should put an end to any further discussion as to whether or not we are currently living in a ‘post-racist’ society. The likelihood of this racially Utopian society emerging anytime in the near-future is next to nil.
If one person knows above all others how detrimental the impact of the Miami Gardens Police Department’s racist tactics can be, it’s 28-year old 207 Quick Stop Store Clerk, Earl Sampson, who’s racked up an astonishingly high amount of arrests in the past four years through no fault of his own. According to the Miami Gardens Police Department’s own documents, which were obtained by the Miami Herald, Sampson was literally stopped and harassed by MGPD officers a total of 258 times, all of which occurred regardless of whether he was on his way to work, on his way back from work, or whether he was at work doing his job. Of these 258 instances, he was searched a total of 100 of them. And yet only one time of the 258 stops were cops ever able to find him in possession of anything, and that was an incredibly meager amount of pot. The charges most often heaped on Sampson include “trespassing” and “loitering”, but the police reports fail to make note that the place he’s accused of “trespassing” is the very same place he’s employed. He’s even been thrown in jail 52 times for these completely bunk charges. Apparently police in Miami Gardens wish to financially ruin this young man and other young Black men and women by trying to scare them into not showing up to their jobs for fear of being racially harassed and profiled. In Sampson’s own words, “I never felt they had any probable cause. They hop out of the car and search me before they even ask for my name.” All in all, records clearly show that Earl Sampson has been stopped and harassed by police on average at least once per week, sometimes as much as three times a day by the very same police officers for the past four years of his life.
The evidence supporting Sampson’s and other peoples’ claims of abuse at the hands of Miami Gardens police are overwhelming. Aside from the cops’ own reports, there’s the indisputable amount of documented evidence accumulated by the convenient store’s owner, Alex Saleh. Saleh, a 36-year old Venezuelan native who is of Palestinian descent, has gotten to know his employees over the years and says they are like family to him. Of Sampson’s arrest record, Saleh says, “[The police] created this record. He’s a good guy, a humble guy, a quiet guy. He’s not a convicted felon.” Lately police officers have been ramping up their already extreme methods of harassing Saleh’s customers and employees, and the store owner has several ideas as to why. It dates back to a number of years ago when the city proposed a so-called “zero-tolerance” policy which allowed for police “to arrest anyone for trespassing if seen on a property that is closed and the owner is not there.” Saleh initially signed his store on to the policy, but after the police did not implement the policy the way they said they would, he removed the “zero-tolerance” sign from his store and made it known that he no longer wished to partake in it. This served to further infuriate police, and 207 Quick Stop became the primary target of police occupation. “They’re just stopping anybody who walks in the city or who comes into my store,” explains Saleh. “You can’t violate peoples’ rights just by standing in front of a business.” Another possible motive deals with the fact that police “have specialized units to combat crime and they need to bring in the numbers to justify those units.”
The constant harassment became such a nuisance that Saleh was convinced he had to take action. Unbeknownst to police, he had a total of fifteen surveillance cameras installed inside and outside of the store. It’s certainly noteworthy that the installation of these cameras resulted not from a need or desire to catch thieves shoplifting from the store, but as a means of documenting the terrible abuses of the local police department. Some of the videos that have leaked and are viewable to the public offer startling evidence of the extreme measures police took to try and make Earl Sampson’s life a living hell. In addition to footage showing cops arresting Sampson for simply entering or leaving the store, police are seen attacking him, pinning him against a wall, and handcuffing him as he walks outside to take out the trash. One video in particular, which dates back to June of 2012, contradicts was written in a police report the very same night. The report states that Sampson was arrested, again, for “loitering” in front of the Quick Stop convenient store (which of course is where he works). Video footage from the surveillance camera however demonstrates that just the opposite happened. Not only was Sampson not loitering, but he was inside the store when he was arrested! The surveillance video shows Sampson performing the task of refilling the store’s cooler when, out of nowhere, Sergeant William Dunaske approaches him and sternly asks, “What are you doing here?” “I work here,” Sampson replies. But that doesn’t stop Dunaske from handcuffing Sampson and charging him with “trespassing.” What’s more, Alex Saleh informs the Sergeant, “I’m the owner; let him go”, to which Dunaske dismissively replied, “Yeah, right.” Other videos caught police officers “snooping behind the cash register area” and “flipping through some papers” that belonged to the store.
Earl Sampson isn’t the only citizen who’s found himself a constant target of the local police department, nor is the 207 Quick Stop necessarily the only business that’s been targeted by the MGPD’s repressive tactics. In the words of Alex Saleh says, “Not only the stores but the people in the community have been having a problem with the police.” Videos show that racism is widespread in the Miami Gardens Police Department. They include footage of customers being stopped and frisked, violently thrown to the ground, and taken into custody at random. As reported in an Op-ed piece written by Fabiola Santiago that appeared in the Miami Herald, “Every customer being harassed is black – some of them so poor they ride old bikes to the 207 Quick Stop convenience store in the 3100 block of Northwest 207th Street, the only place they can readily buy goods in their neighborhood.” Santiago also notes that “all the police officers involved are white.” Saleh also says there have been racial slurs used frequently on the part of the police to refer to his Black customers and employees, and notes that the cops “treat most of them [customers] like hardened criminals.”
City Officials for their part are standing 100% behind the local police force. Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert has even went so far as to accuse Alex Saleh of being “uncooperative” with the department of “internal affairs”, despite public records obtained by the Miami Herald proving Saleh has indeed handed seven videos over to Gary Smith, the commander of “internal affairs”, after being subpoenaed to. These harsh attacks by the city’s politicians which seek to undermine Saleh’s credibility have come in response to Saleh’s announcement that he will file a civil rights lawsuit against the city to be argued and decided before a federal court. Since then, local police officers have been following Saleh after work and stopping him without cause. One Sergeant, Martin Santiago, reportedly even threatened Saleh by warning him, “I’m going to get you mother-fucker.” Needless to say that Saleh is starting to fear for his own safety. The Officers are reportedly trying to intimidate members of the community into not speaking out as well. One of the Quick Stop’s customers who were named in the federal civil rights suit was recently approached and harassed by one of the accused officers – Officer Michael Malone.
Howard Simon, the executive director of the Florida ACLU, does not buy that the department’s abusive actions have gone unnoticed by Miami Gardens Chief of Police, Matthew Boyd. “In a police department in a city this size, this kind of behavior could not escape his attention,” says Simon. If recent events are anything to judge by, it’s apparent that the city is far from backing down on its severely repressive policies. In fact, as recently as November 22 the city announced it is intent on doubling down on this arcane “zero-tolerance” policy, further increasing the presence of police in what amounts to a colonially-occupied war zone.
Saw your exchange with Mike here; what many people don’t realize is that if you’ve ever been arrested, you become a target, even if the charges were dropped. Cops now have a precedent to work with. County websites publish mug shots, but if you want to see the disposition of a case, you have to go through a search function. The net effect is that a mug shot will show in Google, but the dismissed charges will not. This a form of character assassination, as most people who see a published arrest assume the individual is guilty, even if public record bears out they are not.
I’d further like to point out that Earl Sampson’s case is extreme, but not unique. They just haven’t been caught in the act by a camera before, not by a store owner willing to challenge the cops anyway.
Great post, liked and followed!
Thank you very much for your informative comment. So many people who have been arrested by police and whose mug shots show up in the news have done absolutely nothing but be unfortunate enough to have “looked suspicious to the police”, and as you say, most people do not question authority and simply take whatever the police say as fact or assume if someone is arrested they must have deserved it.
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You people are suckers! I live in miami Gardens. The Cops are not fools, these dudes sell WEED & CRACK!!! Trust me! Arabs are paid a cut, don’t be fooled. It’s not racial profiling if you are arrested 200 times and keep coming back! These are the bad negroes making the good people of Miami gardens look like shit. I’m tired of these Arabs coming around here cashing in food stamps and allowing people to hang out at stores selling their crack and weed it’s a National problem.
You win the prize for Most Ignorant Comment. If by “The cops are not fools, these dudes sell WEED & CRACK!!!” you mean the cops sell weed & crack, I don’t necessarily doubt your assertion. I don’t have any evidence of that however so I’m not going to pretend I do. But since you obviously weren’t talking about the cops, your assertion is every bit as baseless. As for “It’s not racial profiling if you are arrested 200 times and keep coming back!”, your reading comprehension skills obviously need some work because THE PLACE THE GUY WAS ARRESTED IS HIS PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT. “I’m tired of these Arabs coming around here cashing in food stamps and allowing people to hang out at stores selling their crack and weed.” You are so blinded by your racism that your judgement is obviously impaired. No one except for you has ever charged that there was drug-dealing going on at the store. Are you sure you aren’t the one smoking crack?
There is clearly something going on in Miami Gardens, but why do you assume it’s racial when the main defendants in the civil rights case, the current and former mayor, the Police Chief, and the Deputy Police Chief are all Black?
I reject the notion that it should be “assumed” that race has nothing to do with this case in the first place. Despite all of America’s history up until the present day, people tend to “assume” police and politicians act in ways which are not racist unless there is some sort of admission by them that they did. Given that this is a system built on the lie of white supremacy, police in particular when they behave this way should be assumed to be performing in the racially discriminatory ways that is common practice among them unless proven otherwise. Had they been searching, rounding up and arresting white people in this way for no apparent reason they could not have gotten away with it for so long. As far as the Police Chief and Mayor being Black, it’s really not as relevant as you think. I’ll finish with my response to that when I return from work tonight.
I really don’t see how white supremacy plays a role in a situation in which the power rests with black office holders and police. I rather doubt they are basing their actions on white supremacy notions. In fact, whites appear to be largely irrelevant in this situation. The only other prominent ethnicity involved is the store owner, Ali Amin Saleh. Now perhaps if there is a racial issue, it’s between the power brokers in Miami Gardens, and this store owner.
LMAO. What a way to try and turn the tables here. The store owner’s employees and customers are the ones being harassed, and all of the officers involved in the video are white btw, which is only relevant because you said that “whites appear to be largely irrelevant in this situation.”
At the end of the day it’s Black and Brown communities that are the targets of police abuse JUST like in Miami Gardens. This is no isolated event, and I’m sure you have in your mind all sorts of ways to justify this. But nevertheless there is money to be made, quotas to met, and federal grants to be earned by police departments all across the nation which give incentive for racial profiling and abuse to be meted out. If these things occurred regularly in wealthy white communities there would be calls for a massive restructuring of the country’s criminal justice system. Whether the face temporarily sitting as top enforcer of these policies is pale or not does not change the nature of the policies.
I’m not trying to justify anything. I pretty explicitly stated in my post about this that there was something fishy going on. However I don’t know what that is. I’m not drawing conclusions without evidence like you are. I think white cops are relevant if this happened a couple of times, but this was several hundred times over four years, and I saw a news feed of the police chief defending his officer’s actions. I guess I should say black police chief since your conclusions revolve solely (although inappropriately ) around color.
As this case moves through the courts, if it comes out that the black mayor and black police chief were out to get Sampson because he’s black, I’ll admit I’m wrong. But right now that seems like a fairly far fetched reason.
Again, what Chiefs don’t defend their officers actions? They all benefit from the corruption. And Sampson was not the only target. The whole community has been targeted.
I would also point out that I never claimed these people were targeted solely because of their color. It’s more complicated perhaps, but to act as if it plays no part is to ignore the reality of police practice in the United States. You seem to believe that racist actions only involve saying “the ‘N-word'” or it has to be stated specifically. It’s not always that simple.
In your post you pretty explicitly chalked it up to racial profiling, so if you are changing your tune now and say that it’s more complicated, well, I can agree on that. Black Mayor and Police Chief targeting blacks in a town that’s 80% black never made much sense. And as I said, there is something going on. What that something is would be interesting to get to the bottom of. Unfortunately race has sidetracked that.
There is no backtracking here. What I meant by “more complicated” is that it’s not as simple as you seem to think it is. “Oh the police chief is Black so race is not an issue”. Nor does someone such as the many police officers involved have to admit that their racial prejudices have an affect on their actions for it to be so.
Nevertheless, from the beginning what seems to have bothered you more than the corrupt actions of the police officers is the fact that I called them out as racist. Of everything I’ve written in the above article it is the fact that I didn’t adhere to your so-called “color-blind” principles that seems to have gotten you most upset.
I would also add to this something I wrote about back in March – that one or two people serving as the face of a certain institution does not and never has been the way in which the functions and priorities of those same institutions change.It’s only a superficial way to fight off criticism. The person who joins or manages to secure a spot in a formerly restricted institution or organization with the intention of “changing it” with their mere presence alone, more often than not, conforms to the institution’s way of operating and sometimes even thinking. Otherwise they would not be successful in that role.
Previously I wrote:
“Police officers, regardless of who they were before their employment, all exist to serve as armed defenders of a wealthy establishment. Often times when members of oppressed communities, even if they join the institution in hopes of bringing change to it by their presence, run up against the systematic walls which have been built in and eventually conform to this institutional way of looking at the world. Communities of color are designated as enemies to the armed agents of the State, regardless of what the Officer’s own ethnicity, race, or gender might be.”
So the black mayor and black police chief intends to keep the black man down. And they choose to do it by harassing one employee in a store in a community that’s 80% black?
Either you’ve not thought this out, or you are purposely avoiding logical conclusions.
And you are intentionally ignoring or purposely not even reading the article. He is not the only person this has happened to. It’s been happening to random customers in the store, people on the street, and is hardly even relegated to this one community. And the fact that it’s “80% black” as you say is all the more reason these cops can get away with it while ppl like you attempt to spread the lie that America is a “colorblind” society.
Oddly enough, you’re whole line of argument is more than a century old. I was reading a few weeks ago about the 1894 lynching of six Black men that occurred in Kerrville, Tennessee. The men were first arrested after being accused of setting a fire to a white man’s barn, despite no evidence to suggest this to be the case. (In fact one of the men, Dan Hawkins, was in jail at the time of this particular burning because he had been accused of a previous barn-burning based on flimsy evidence.)
The officer that arrested these six men was himself a Black man who was “notorious as having made a living off trumped-up charges” against Black men in the community. [Giddings, Paula. (2008). IDA: SWORD AMONG LIONS. Pages 322-327] In fact the officer was in cahoot with the whites, because after he placed the six men in handcuffs he put them on “an old uncovered wagon” and “a route was chosen that took them through an isolated area” where “a mob was waiting” to lynch them.
When the newly-formed British chapter of the Anti-Lynching Committee came to America to look into the matter, Southern whites were bending over backwards to explain their failure to prevent these lynchings and to punish the lynchers. Governor W. M. Fishback of Arkansas for example, in an attempt to justify and defend the South’s record on lynchings, pointed to the fact that the arresting Officer in the Kerrville, TN case was a Black officer, and claimed that mobs in some instances of lynching included a few Black men.
In other words, the so-called “logic” you tout isn’t anything new.
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