Puerto Rican leaders say it took a riot to draw attention to their impoverished community's problems.
"My community has the same problems, especially in the poorer neighborhoods, as the black community. We've been completely ignored," Emilio Lopez said one day after hundreds rampaged in the city's Wynwood section.The five-hour riot erupted Monday after six police officers were acquitted of conspiracy in the beating death of a reputed drug dealer from the neighborhood. Stores were looted and burned. Fire damage alone was put at $2.9 million.
Business owners Tuesday said police were too slow to move in and save their shops.
"The Miami police sacrificed us," said Patrick Gerrits, owner of a contracting firm that fell victim to the looting and vandalism.
Police Chief Perry Anderson admitted that the riot squad, which waited two hours before moving in, was slow to react. Nevertheless, he defended their caution, pointing out that there were no deaths or serious injuries.
"We live in a very volatile city, a powder-keg city," he said. "You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't."
About 15 arrests were made.
The jury on Monday cleared the officers of conspiracy in the beating death of Leonardo Mercado two years ago and deadlocked on more serious civil rights charges. The judge declared a mistrial on those charges.