FIU Alum Behind Upcoming Miramar Protest Against Police Brutality

By: Victor Jorges / News Director

A protest will be held in Miramar this Saturday, June 6, in reaction to the death of George Floyd. The police are well-aware of it, and Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, might be there. 

Originally, the protest was going to entirely be held at the Miramar Town Center, where the city’s police department is headquartered. However, after police intervention in the form of phone calls, the protest will start at the Ansin Sports Complex at 2 p.m. and make its way to the Town Center.

Josh Michel, an FIU alum, and Haley Ferguson are the organizers of the protest. According to Michel, who doesn’t consider himself an activist, the event comes from an idea “thrown in the air.”

“I was seeing all these different protests,” said Michel. “There was one in Miami, there was one in Ft. Lauderdale. And I was thinking ‘why did nobody do one in Miramar Town Center?’ because that’s where everyone goes and votes, and that’s where the police station is. We’re protesting police brutality.”

That’s when Michel, who had only been to one protest, reached out to Ferguson to set it up.

It all happened quickly, according to Ferguson. First, they just mentioned it on social media, and they immediately saw support from the Miramar community. Next thing they knew, Michel was getting a phone call from Miramar PD’s Chief Dexter Williams. 

After an hour or so on the phone, the protest had a different direction and support from the city’s police department. 

“We talked about basically just making sure that we’re able to have the resources that we need to be able to do this protest,” said Ferguson.

Another element for the protest brought up during the phone call was having members of Trayvon Martin’s family attend and use this event as a platform. 

Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year-old was murdered by George Zimmerman in February 2012. Similar to Floyd, Martin was unarmed and was killed by an officer. Zimmerman was the neighborhood watch coordinator of the community he lived in. Martin was visiting his relatives in the community.

Now, Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, is running for Miami-Dade commissioner. According to her website, “following the death of her 17-year-old son, Trayvon Martin, Sybrina turned her heartbreak into action by advocating for families and concerned citizens across the country.”

“Trayvon Martin’s case was something that everybody in Florida was infuriated by,” said Ferguson. “Well, not everybody, but a lot of us were very mad and hurt by that.”

Although good things came from the call, Michel and Ferguson were hesitant about the intentions of the police at first. 

For a moment, they even feared for their lives.

“I personally as a woman, especially considering all the things that we are protesting and doing at this time, I was scared because I was not sure why the police were contacting me, obviously we’re doing activist work within our local community,” said Ferguson. “I immediately felt skeptical. I felt scared for my life and my safety.”

Michel felt the same way. When the police called at first, he rejected the call because it came from an unknown number. He never answers calls from unknown numbers. He found out it was the police, and made the decision to take it.

“[I thought] I could still not talk to them,” he said. “Because, obviously, for numerous reasons, I don’t see why I would want to talk to the police about anything, but at the same time, I just thought like it if they already know about the protest, it is what it is.”

Michel says that the protest was never meant to be a secret, and if the police found out about it, they would still show up anyway.

The police never intended or insisted to take away the protest, according to the pair. Instead, the police offered resources, a connection with Martin’s family, and to get them in touch with the mayor.

Even then, Michel and Ferguson are waiting to see what happens on Saturday.

“Honestly, when it comes to the police, even with working with them I just have a lot of mixed emotions and I have a lot of mixed feelings,” said Ferguson. “It’s honestly hard for me to say how I feel until I see how all of this plays out, and I see how they choose to respond to our protests on Saturday.”

In terms of turnout, Michell says numbers are not important to him, but rather it’s all about speaking out against what’s wrong. 

“It could be 10, it could be 20, it could be a thousand,” said Michel. “It really doesn’t matter to me as long as people are going out to speak out for you know what’s right, and speak out against what’s wrong.”

Although there’s hope and anticipation for this Saturday’s protest, recent police behavior in various cities using tear and rubber bullets toward protestors casts a shadow of nerves over the young organizers.

“Obviously I don’t want there to be any tear gas or rubber bullets flying or anything of that sort because there’s really no reason for that,” said Michel. “Period.”

Ultimately, Ferguson’s message is clear.

“My point is really to make our voices heard, let the police department know, let everybody know, our local officials know,  that we don’t feel seen, we don’t feel heard,” said Ferguson. “We don’t feel protected. We fear for our lives, we’re no longer going to allow brutality to go on unprotected.”

Michel agrees.

“I want everybody to know that we do have a voice. Our voice is a lot bigger than what you think it is. Just going out this random thought online, this whole entire process that we pretty much did not plan at all,” said Michel. “Now it’s a lot bigger than what we thought it would ever be. So I just want people to know that your voice actually matters. I want people to basically stand up for what right and know that that black lives matter right now.” 

Michel graduated from FIU in 2018, and Ferguson graduated from the University of Florida that same year.

PantherNOW contacted Miramar PD for an interview with Chief Williams but was told by Tania Rues, their Public Information Officer, that Williams was not available for one-on-one interviews. We were pointed to the Twitter message that the police department had put out of a letter written by Williams.

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