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Updated | Gay activist Herb Sosa: South Beach a 'war zone;' demands end to Urban Weekend (with video)

Update (9:41 p.m. June 1, 2011)

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Since Monday, about a half-million Gay South Florida readers have viewed Herb Sosa's open letter to Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, the Beach commission and "concerned citizens" about Urban Weekend.

Sosa says he's shocked that the blog post went viral, thanks in great part to it being a lead story on The Drudge Report.

"It went crazy," Sosa said Tuesday morning. "People are pissed off. They're upset, What's the right way to take care of the city?"

Sosa, president of Unity Coalition, Miami-Dade County's leading Hispanic gay-rights group, said he's concerned some people have called him racist, after he demanded an end to Urban Weekend.

"It has nothing to do with racism," said Sosa, who lives in South Beach. "It's a lack of respect for the city they're visiting. It's as simple as that. This morning, there were six cars parked on my block with their mirrors ripped off, their antennas ripped off.

"The suggestion that this is a racist issue ... is absolutely ridiculous. If anything, the city of Miami Beach as been more than accommodating to Urban Weekend."

Sosa, an activist who once was executive director of Miami Design Preservation League and the Art Deco Weekend Festival, has asked residents to attend Wednesday's Miami Beach Commission meeting to voice their opinions about Urban Weekend.

He may not be there, however.

"This is not about me," Sosa said. "I'm not sure if I'm going to go the commission meeting or not. ... Yes, I'm passionate about this but it's not my sole cause."

Original post (10:04 May 30, 2011)

An open letter from activist Herb Sosa, who is president of Unity Coalition, Miami-Dade County's largest Hispanic gay-rights group:

Esteemed Miami Beach Mayor, Commissioners & concerned citizens.

Please view the attached YouTube video (one of many) already posted for the world to see, about Memorial/Urban Weekend 2011 in Miami Beach. http://youtu.be/cjxxGBJmOqQ

It shows our city as nothing short of a warzone - Filthy streets, a drive by shooting, multiple cars crashed in the process, and total chaos on the streets. This is unacceptable and must be controlled before we totally lose our city, tourism & residents. It is not limited to Ocean Drive or Collins - there isn't a residential street in South Beach not affected by tons of garbage, crime to our vehicles, excessive noise 24 hours a day, and simply a lack of respect for our community, citizens & property. THIS is the image the world see of our "American Riviera".

When did perceived political or social correctness override the safety & well-being of a community? This is not a race, economic or ethnic issue, it is an issue of visitors who have a total lack of respect for our community, its property & citizens. I know hotel rooms are filled, but at what price and for how long? How many events, meetings, conventions & vacations have been CANCEELLED because of this nightmare we endure each Memorial Day? Almost everyone who lives her that I know, get out of Miami Beach for Memorial Day - including many of you - because of this unruly & dangerous mob that we seem to invite back every year and turn a blind eye to the irreparable damage they leave behind.

If this was PRIDE weekend, The Boat Show, Fashion Week or Art Deco Weekend - would we allow this to go on each year? I am certain that if the real numbers of cost & crime are compared with like events we host throughout the year - Memorial/Urban Weekend is tenfold the headache, cost & damage of any of them. IS IT ALL WORTH IT FOR OUR CITY MANAGEMENT?

I am not willing to wait another year to see how many more people will be killed; how many more hotel rooms will be trashed; how many more cars & homes will be broken into; how many more residents need to leave in fear of hide in their homes for their safety; how much more police, fire rescue, sanitation & additional security dollars need to be spent to try & keep our city safe & livable for all each Memorial Weekend? - a Hell of a way for Miami Beach to honor our soldiers. Every resident & voter I speak to mentions Memorial/Urban Weekend as one of the top major problems our city has, when considering elections & our leaders - PLEASE TAKE NOTE, make the difficult but correct decision to put an end to Urban Weekend in Miami Beach and help us SAVE OUR CITY. We are not Disney or Universal. We cannot close a gate at night & go home. We ARE home, and inviting & accommodating the world to come and share our paradise - not destroy it and hold us hostage in the process. Unruly and unlawful visitors are NOT WELCOME in Miami Beach.

Respectfully,

Herb Sosa

Miami Beach, Florida

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Mr. Wee Wee sez "yOu gO girl" and STAND FIRM BEHIND Barack!

Violence, lawlessness, corruption, anarchy - all elements existing in third world countries.

It appears Jeb Bush should never have professed indignation when former Congressman Tom Tancredo noted the similarities between south Florida and third world countries.

Due to corrupt elected/appointed officials we have allowed our state/country to be turned into a clone of the third world countries the illegal aliens left behind before invading ours.

Hey, it's just another bunch of Obamas runnin' wild. What else would you expect?

I've seen these types of overly dramatic rants before...there's a hate-hate relationship between most gays and most blacks in miami. I'm a gay property owner in south beach.

If you wanna call a Spade a Spade, do so...but, check your facts. Most of the things that occur on your illustrious South Beach have nothing to do with Urban Week..... Pull the news clips and pull the reports. Better yet, talk to people who live there and you will see the Truth. Stop trying to create this FALSE sense of what's really going on...Coming from someone that works in The DLE setting, STOP FOOLING YOURSELVES.

We had this in Atlanta for a few unfortunate years, but effectively got rid of it. And anyone saying this has nothing to do with race are kidding themselves. Young blacks partying like this often ends up with shots being fired. This is pretty much unique to their "culture". That is a fact, and pretending otherwise does no one any good and is not helpful in any debate.

White kids and their rock and roll used to cause havoc
Now, black kids and their rap are causing mayhem

Stop being a racist

"For people using this even to spew your racism you conveniently forget that the motorcycle bike rallies in Sturgis, SD and Daytona Beach, FL draws an equally violent element in motorcycle gangs who are predominantly white."

Please cite any reports of shots being fired at these rallies, ever. Thanks.

The people that are calling us racist...and that are saying a few bad apples...Have you ever been here for Memorial Day Weekend? If you had...I don't think you'd be saying these comments...no matter if you are black, white, latin, asian, ect ect yourself...

To commenter Frank, The continued myth that inner city blacks are over represented in our military is simply that, a myth. Whites make up the vast majority of combat positions.

Isn't this what happens in any non-White area?

I agree with the poster above, this is not about color but the appeal to a certain "type" of person. If a bunch of red necks from the deep south came for a weekend, and started shooting up S. Beach, their weekend festival would be over with the very first year it happened. This is not a white and black thing, but the fact that this one weekend attracts a certain type of person that is not here to enjoy the beach, and have a good time - but continues to spread an incredible negative element that causes residents and visitors to want to stay clear of the area.

The "Urban Weekend" has changed the culture of S. Beach not only for the weekend but permanently. If you had a one week a year to go somewhere on vacation why would you choose Miami Beach after seeing this video?

I love some idiot's comment that this is similar to a white, motorcycle rallY in South Dakota. What a joke.
Yeah, sure, there similar all right, except no get's killed at the motor-cycle rally. And, no one tries to gun down police either. Give me $@*+*A* break. Miami is such great city; I hate that awful events like this tear it down.

.....And just one more boxing jab-if I see and hear one more newscaster smiling and babbling about the great fun of MEMORIAL DAY THUGGSTHON AT SOUTH BEACH, AS IF IT IS SOME DEVINE, FAMILY FUN EVENT-I MIGHT THROW UP IN MY MOUTH A LITTLE BIT! SERIOUSLY-STOP PROMOTING THIS-AS SOUTH FLORIDA-AND MAYBE----THE CRIMINALS AND WEIRDOS WILL BLOW AWAY.( LETS HEAR A CHORUS OF "DIRTY LAUNDRY"----YEHHH!)

Miami is becoming Detroit with an ocean. Everybody knows why, but no one has the nerve to say it.

Shoot, by the time this is done Mr. Sosa will be doing " sensitivity training " with Al and "Reverend" Jessie in the background.

There's a reason Atlanta doesn't sponsor Freaknik anymore.

Perhaps to many gays in south beach. Immorality breeds immorality.

Hope and Change.

A different perspective - I'm a white guy (if it matters) who lived in South Beach (15th & Meridian) for 4 years up to 2009. I enjoyed Memorial Day weekends there. The atmosphere is exciting and the people watching is spectacular. There are loads of beautiful black women parading about. The guys are often decked out in interesting ensembles. It's very social, very festive, lots of smiling faces. The cars are a hoot. You get to hear music that you're not normally exposed to. I found everyone to be quite friendly. For me, MDWs were real cultural experiences and some of the highlights of my time in South Beach.

Maybe we should shut down sturgis too they kill eachother every year up there at a much more regular pace than "urban weekend"...oh yeah they are white rednecks so no one puts a microscope over their events. And of course there are no gay people at sturgis so who cares...right? So pigeon holed its pathetic. A lot of people get together to get drunk and celebrate rap music somethin is going to happen. People get robbed...they fight...at most huge urban events...plus our cops down here are like a gang themselves.

I'm from Virginia Beach, VA where we used to have Greekfest many years ago. Greekfest was a festival for students/frats/soros from historically black colleges. Things got out of hand a couple of years in a row and the city shut things down. I attended the fest and found that while there was a party atmosphere most people were cool. Saw one incident while standing on a corner with white friends on the opposite corner were some black guys and police came to tell them they had to move on because they were loitering but didn't say anything to us. So, my belief is, part of this is just nasty people and part of it is "society."

It sucks that the crime happens but considering the huge number of people there a few incidents aren't really bad. The problem is that for gay pride, a wine festival, or a similar event you don't see any crime - or at least don't hear about it.

So what's the solution? Can we have a registration procedure to guests? Can we have remote parking and a security gate to enter the area? What can we do to invite people to the area while keeping some sense of control?

It's not just black folks either. There are hip-hop and urban people of every race. We just see black people and immediately get scared. As a white, middle class, educated guy I'd like to be one who tries to find a solution that benefits both sides instead of just trying to ban everything altogether.

@a former community activist from Chicago - Nice try, but the idea that vandalism, loud music and being accosted by random strangers only happens during UBW is, to quote your oh so eloquent term, crap. This happens during WMC, it happens at nightclubs, it happens at strip joints.

Naturally people are afraid when there is violence, but that doesn't justify stereotyping all Urban Beach Week goers as violent thugs turning South Beach into a war zone.

As a woman, I can personally testify that I get harassed and groped much more during WMC. In fact, every day of the year there are always guys making cat calls, copping feels and giving women a hard time. But does that justify ostracizing all men from South Beach?

Similarly, ostracizing black people from South Beach would make a lot of scared people feel safer, but it certainly doesn't solve the problem of violence, and it is absolutely racist to make that sweeping generalization (and identifying yourself as an alleged community activist from Chicago doesn't distract from that)

No one mentioned the very nasty trashy rude white people that flooded the beach this weekend also... its not about the race its more like the crowd that "Urban Week" attracts. Take Memorial Weekend parties back to ATL where it started!

Heh. Now you can't even call them "Obamas"...

}:-]

As an English visitor staying on Ocean Drive for two months, my first visit to the USA, I have been impressed by the politeness and respect shown by all the people I have met on the street this weekend. Geenerally speaking there is no trouble at all, despite the incident this morning. The generalisations being made in the letter are ridiculous in my opinion.

ENOUGH OF THE LABELING! If a group of patrons misbehave the residents should have the right to ask them to change their behavior or leave and not return. If the residents are willing to do this despite the economic loss it may represent then its on them and OK by me, I don't live on the Beach. What difference does it make that the columnist is Hispanic, Gay, Black, White, Muslim, Catholic, Jew, or whatever?!?! Does he speak truth or is he lying? Is it racist? Is it bigoted? Is it truth? THAT and only that should determine what side of the issue you fall on. If you feel the column is racist or bigoted then its falsehood and the columnist should be called out on it. But support your allegation with proof lest YOU be accused of racism and bigotry. The writer supports his opinion with video proof and I, again who don't live, hang out, or even sniff the Beach, side with him. What are your truths to dispute what he wrote?

why don't we get rid of the gay and lesbian events also. I don't think my children should be exposed to men kissing men and women kissing women. not about sexual orientation... just about MORALS!

last night, there was so much hardware bulging out of waistbands chugging down the south beach streets, there could have been a salvage yard reclaimation for tons of steel! that -is------aroblem. miz it with booze, drugs, and attitudes-and whoaaaaaaweeee-we are off to the races!!!!

The reason the black population dropped in SF was gentrification. It takes megabux to live there now, unless you're one of the predominently white jailbird bums hanging at the entrance to Golden Gate Park making it too scary to enter, even at mid-afternoon.
As for the Miami Beach Urban weekend, I stay far away...plenty of other things to do one weekend a year. Y'know, the first thing decent hardworking blacks do when they get enough money, is split for the 'burbs to get away from the thugs.

Translation: black people aren't welcome to our beach. This is just down right racist and NO I will NOT support this. Put an end to racism now!

All you have to do is go to http://www.blackbeachweek.com/urbanbeachweek1.html and see that their supposed goal is to 'take over the town'. They take it over alright.

Hmmm ok this comment is coming from an old white guy who has lived in Miami since the 60's and seen all the changes so I may be biased.
I have to tell you that Miami was THE place to be in the 60's and 70's. Now like many top destinations around the world things change. The beaches in Key Biscayne, Miami Beach up to Haulover were well a great place for family and friends to meet and the worst thing you had to worry about was getting your trunk lock popped and a radio stolen. I have a gun permit and would never carry one to a location like this because many act like "crazy town" is the new standard when I promise you it is not.
I live 40 minutes from Collins and my daughter lives on the water a bike ride away form the causeway and guess where we do not go on Memorial Day Weekend? Miami Beach! I do not go to Disney World during gay days just like I do not go to Miami Beach on Memorial day weekend because it is not a place my family would have fun. Week before or after yes in deed. I think it is important that all tourists are "informed" of these days on a city posted web site for visitors to make the decision ahead of time if it suits their life style. This is NOT a race issue just compare it with spring break in the old days in Daytona beach and Fort Lauderdale. Cities and local establishments want and need special holiday events but need better control to attract those with money to spend on things besides bullets and hospitals. New Orleans for Mardi Gra? Wow what a mess, nasty drunk people! Ok so the city needs better planning and control, how about closing all the tourist congested streets to vehicle traffic and make shuttle buses available at a very low cost from preplanned FREE parking areas? Let the visitors enjoy the weekend, spend some money and not get shot. Geese I never understood urban viloence but if they want to bring it to our area, we need better control so if a"drive by shooting" is going to occur it will be on bikes not cars much less of a chance of escalating violence if the streets are closed to all vehicles. Perhaps during this weekend police could be outfitted with only "non lethal" crowd and individual control?
Keep the event just get better in the planning!
Wait, have the bars water the drinks down even more!

Herb Sosa is a RACIST......

Take ONE video then proclaim the whole city is a 'War Zone' => Total nonsense, this isn't Misrata Herb.

A couple of pin heads shooting another pin head doesn't a war zone make.


one word freaknik.....it was the same in atlanta during freaknik....every good bar or festival that starts to cater to african americans always ends in violence..gangs..thugs...everyone i have ever seen this has happend too no exceptions...they are all closed or the festival has been cancelled....why do blacks always want to start trouble and start shooting each other...probably lack of father figures in thier life....i am not a bigot this is just what i have observed everywhere i have been...why does this demographic have to be so stupid...

Herb Sosa is a RACIST.......

All of you who are commenting on this writer's racism or drag or cuban or muslim intentions - you're all idiots.... Seriously get out and see the world.

Herb - SPOT ON! Couldn't have said it better myself. I was scared to even go to my local starbucks this weekend. The alleys were lined with gangs of people, the streets are disgusting and lets just sat this was a tweet I saw this morning which summarized the way ppl treat Miami Beach:

"goin home naw from #destroying #miamibeach. Luv wripping thiz town apart"

Yea thanks - another way our taxes get spent!

I know it brings in money but at what expense??

There's a lot of good comments on here but most people dont realize the truth of the matter at hand. First of all, you may not like us in Miami Beach but there is no other demographic willing to pay the overcharged prices that we do during Memorial Weekend. Clubs and hotels increase charges by almost 300 percent for this weekend. So one thing that the business owners do like is our money. Now I also see people commenting on here with these crime statistics so now lets bring up a little history. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. Thats less than 50 years ago. So less than 50 years ago, we could not vote, we could not go to south beach, we couldn't attend certain schools and so on and so forth. Please stop acting like institutionalized racism is ancient history in this country. Most of you commenting on here are probably well over 50 years old. Face it, we are America's dirty little secret. The high crime rates committed by blacks in this country is a direct result of what we have been subjected to since arriving in this country. I just wished more of my brothers and sisters would know their history then maybe they would stop spending their money where they are not even wanted.

The City of Miami Beach is responsible for all this. The City of Miami Beach is killing the tourism. Very soon we will all see the consequences of promoting every year this disgusting event that brings to our beautiful beach the most disgusting people who just leave trash behind and violence to the extreme. Civilized tourists are taking South Beach off their list of places to visit. The City of Miami Beach MUST STOP this!!!!!!

Gregg: These aren't illegals! You're an idiot. These were african americans, read the story.
Everyone else: This isn't an issue of being racist as I don't think any one on this comment section is racist. It's just the fact that every race has that minority and sometime majority of the people who are just retarded. I think more of a cultural issue. Let's face it, rap belongs to the ghettos, and wherever ghetto people meet, crime is bound to happen. Our ghettos in america aren't safe neighborhoods, thats why we try to stay away from them. Or if we drive though, we lock our doors. We all do this no matter what race you are. We can't fight statistics. The truth of the matter is these events should be cancelled until we can have some sort of proof that those hosting can make sure these type of things don't "go down". Until then, don't host it. Don't allow it, and let them stay where they belong. This country is a great country that gives these individuals everything. Free schooling for college, free food through food stamps, etc. We pay for all this through our taxes. Yet they still choose to live in their own filth.

buttttttttt-I SELL A LOT OF MOTORCYCLE CUSTOM SEATS, SADDLEBAGS AND THE LIKE AT DAYTONA BIKE WEEK-EVEN HELL'S ANGELS PAY GOOD MONEY. I DON'T DO MUCH CUSTOM CASES FOR MINI-AK-47'S ON SOUTH BEACH FROM THE ETHNIC THUGGA-MUGGA PIMPS AND HO'S! SOUTH BEACH-IS JUST TROUBLE-AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN SO! THEY AIN'T EXACTLY SITTING AT SIDEWALK CAFES BUYING 100 DOLLAR PLATES WITH TWO ASPARAGUS AND A BLOB OF CHICKEN CUBES THAT SELL THEMSELVES AS CUISINE! Overpriced, under-talented, and definitely not tourist friendly! WHY, GOOD PEOPLE, WOULD YOU WASTE YOUR TIME AT "THUGGA BEACH MEMORIAL EVE MASSACRES"! NO-NO-BETTER HURRY IN THE TAXI RIGHT TO THE PORT AND THE CRUISE SHIP----

Look at San Francisco. A city known for tolerance, which had to shut down the Halloween street festival in the Castro district due to gang activity taking over the event. Multiple years of shootings, beatings, near riot situations. The neighborhood finally said enough is enough.

I live on Miami beach and leave every memorial day. Sucks that I spend my money here year round to live and work on Miami Beach and I know for a fact that I can't be here for memorial day. Everything gets trashed, there are always stabbings and shootings. My girlfriend gets harassed if we're out on the street. It's nuts. It's not racist, if the people coming were any other race it would still be just as shitty. The culture that's being celebrated urban weekend is a rap culture that mostly revolves around disrespecting women, crime, drugs, and violence. All things that we DON'T want in our community. If urban weekend was calm black people, that were here to celebrate the sand, sun, and memory of our soldiers it would be no problem. Just whats being celebrated intrinsically is something that is negative for our community. Everyone knows that all us residents clear out of SoBe every year. It makes our community look like crap and it sucks. I have no problem with black people, just urban weekend on Miami Beach.

Anyone supporting the homosexual agenda will not benefit from me reading their article. Homosexuality is defined by sexual intercourse. It is defined by perverted sex. Nothing more. Steve has no credibility in the larger picture, so why read what he has to say here?

AHHHHHHHHHH-WHAT A NIGHTMARE-OYE-VAY!

When Thugga-Muggas attack---!!!!THIS IS CULTURAL DIVERSITY?????

You must be crazy to post this article, well written as it is, as from a 'gay activist'. This promotes, in this case, an unnecessary additional issue--just as gay religious marriage did to the gay civil rights issue.

ANA THINKS THEY WERE MUSLIMS-NOPE! I DID N-O-T SEE ONE FLYING CARPET WITH BEARDED TURBAN WARRIORS FIRING AK-47'S AS THEY FLEW BY IN THAT VIDEO ON THE UTUBE! I DID SEE FECKLESS, STUPID PEOPLE WALKING BY A SHOT-UP CAR IN A DRIVE-BY-UNAWARE THAT SOMEONE COULD SHOOT THEM! I AM THINKING, THESE MIGHT HAVE BEEN REJECTED 50 STATE SECURITY GUARD RECRUITS REBELLING BECAUSE THE OFFICE RAN OUT OF DOUGHNUTS AND THEY HAD NO JOBS, AND NO DOUGHNUTS! SEEMS PROBABLE PROVOCATION-TO ME!

Look for Obama to say the police acted stupidly.


To the politically correct censor who chose to eradicate my original remarks - a clear sign of liberal cowardice - which were altogether candid and pulled no punches as to the irrefutable facts, the truth outright surrounding this specific incident, as well, the overwhelming majority of other violent crime within the United States, I have one question for you.........

What is it like to deliberately live a lie, to knowingly live in denial? Personally, from the standpoint of propriety, I inherently cannot imagine. That you choose to censor is its own indictment.

This is disgusting and I am now thinking the Memorial Weekend Bike Fest (Black Bike Week as those in attendance refer to it) here in Myrtle Beach isn't so bad after all. I keep reading about how racist it is to want this festival in SB to stop, but how can ANYONE argue the trash, crime, and violence associated with this event. This DOES NOT happen with other events, and we have our beach trashed when Black Bike Week happens here too. So I guess I am a racist for stating that these "urban" festivals are the ONLY ones that just blatantly disrespect the communities that actually host and put up with the mess attendees make. Total trash, and if that is racist and sounds like de-evolution, blacks that are mad shouldn't be mad at me, be mad at your own, more specifically, your elders, for not taking the time to raise these heathens right.

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