A commission by the city of Miami Beach to create a series of art installations to display on Miami Beach during Memorial Day weekend of 2019 is now at the center of a lawsuit against the city.
Octavia Yearwood, Jared McGriff, art programmers, and Rodney Jackson, artist, have filed a lawsuit saying that their First Amendment right to free speech was violated after city officials ordered the removal of Jackson’s painting depicting Raymond Herisse, a Haitian American man who was fatally shot by Miami Beach Police in 2011.
The 2019 project, “ReFrame Miami Beach,” was created to promote conversations about race and address racial justice in Miami Beach.
An exhibit installed on Lincoln Road included a painting by Miami-based Black artist Rodney Jackson entitled “Memorial to Raymond Herisse."
City officials said the Miami Beach Police Department objected to it. The lawsuit claims that officials also warned that if the painting was not removed, the entire Lincoln Road installation, "I See You, Too" would be closed.
Herisse, 22, was killed at 4 a.m. on a pre-dawn Memorial Day on the last day of Urban Beach Week in 2011. According to the Miami Herald, police said his blue Hyundai Sonata was barreling down Collins Avenue, bumping into parked cars, even striking an officer on a bike, when police opened fire.
When the car finally came to a stop at 13th and Collins, witnesses said police continued to shoot. Prosecutors for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office declined to charge the officers involved in the shooting in 2015. In response to the shooting, the Miami Beach Police Department changed their use-of-force policy in October of 2014 prohibiting officers from shooting at moving vehicles, the newspaper reported.
The artist who painted the memorial to Herisse said: “They hired us to start a conversation on racial injustice and when we attempted to engage the public in that conversation, they wanted to shut us up. The political climate is demanding that we have this conversation. The public at large is demanding that we unpack historical injustice. We need to put up the image of Raymond Herisse and engage in that conversation.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, ACLU of Florida Greater Miami Chapter and Valiente, Carollo & McElligott, PLLC filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida Miami Division on behalf of the three individuals.