Raymond A. Mohl


On Monday, January 16, 1989, hundreds of blacks in Miami took to the streets in angry rage for the fourth time in the 1980s. Over several days, they burned cars and buildings, looted stores, pelted passers-by with rocks and bottles, and faced off with riot police in Overtown and Liberty City, Miami’s two major black communities. The incident that touched off this new expression of black anger was sadly familiar. A Miami policeman had shot and killed a black man fleeing a traffic infraction on a motorcycle, while a second black man, a passenger on the motorcycle, was thrown from the vehicle and also killed. It was difficult to miss the irony in the fact that this latest Miami riot took place on the same day that blacks had celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the modern apostle of nonviolence. There were other ironies, as well. In this new immigrant city, it should not have been surprising that none of those involved in the riot-triggering incident was a native-born American. The police officer who fired the fatal bullet, William Lozano, had immigrated to Miami with his family from Colombia. Although few noticed at the time, the two dead black men, Allen Blanchard and Clement Lloyd, were also migrants from the Carribean basin, from the U. S. Virgin Islands. The three newcomers whose paths crossed on that fateful Monday evening had come to south Florida in search of the elusive American dream; what they found in Miami, ultimately, was something quite different.