Miami - May 19, 1980

Miami: Justice wept.

Justice wept.
Miami: Justice wept.
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CBS Special Report – Miami Riots – May 19, 1980

On May 19, 1980 the city of Miami was entering its third day of racially-charged violence. The cause was, and continues to be, a familiar one. Black businessman Arthur McDuffie was beaten by four White Police officers, after his arrest following a high-speed chase. McDuffie died from his injuries sustained from the beating at the hands of the Officers.

The trial of the four Officers ended with acquittal, handed down by a predominately White Jury on May 17. The verdict sparked outrage within the Black community of Miami, setting off a riot which resulted in 18 deaths, 350 injuries and over 600 arrests. It was the worst rioting since the infamous “Long Hot Summers” of the 1960s.

National Guard troops had been called in to quell the riots, and damage estimates exceeded $100 million.

In December 1979, a number of white Miami-Dade police officers were involved in a high-speed chase involving black motorist Arthur McDuffie. Police reports said that the chase ended when McDuffie crashed his motorcycle, ultimately leading to his death. However, coroner reports suggested that the cause of death was not consistent with a motorcycle crash. Later, a responding officer following the chase testified that there was no crash, and that the police officers had beaten McDuffie to death with their flashlights.

Even with the coroner report and the testimony from police and witnesses, an all-white jury concluded the trial on May 17, 1980 with the acquittal of all officers involved in the McDuffie police brutality case. News spread to the surrounding areas and residents of mostly African American Liberty City, home to half of the city’s black and Afro-West Indian residents, took to the streets in protests which soon turned violent as some protesters began throwing objects at passing white motorists who drove through the area.

As of May 19th, the rioting was continuing as attempts to bring calm to the situation were proving fruitless.

The rioting, as well as the cause of the riot quickly became national news, as attention was focused on what many considered an inept Judicial system in Miami, and in fact, spoke to a greater problem within our Judicial system as a whole.

This report, a special program from CBS News, covers the events leading up to the disturbance and what was going on in Miami on the 3rd day of rioting.

Here is that complete report, as hosted by Dan Rather from May 19, 1980.

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