I live in Florida, but nowhere near Fort Lauderdale. It was a couple of days before I chanced across a brief news item about a “ruckus by the beach,” as CBS News called it:
Fort Lauderdale police believe hundreds of young people made their way to the beach for one reason this Memorial Day, to cause trouble.
Police described a volatile scene Monday night as they had to arrest dozens of people that were part of unruly crowds.
Two separate incidents late Monday afternoon kept officers busy. One scene was near the area of 31st Avenue and West Broward Boulevard.
The other was near the beach close to A1A.
Police said around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, hundreds of young people made their way to the beach for one reason this Memorial Day, to cause trouble.
And trouble they did indeed cause:
Fort Lauderdale Police were in riot gear as a large crowd of young people moved through A1A reportedly causing mayhem.
“We had several reports of individuals who were reaching into vehicles, striking drivers. We have reports individuals who were jumping on top of taxicabs,” said Detective Deanna Greenlaw with Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
Fort Lauderdale Police officials said a group of young people came to the beach to fight and when police quickly broke it up, they scattered through the streets.
“This was something that was planned through these individuals and they were coming to Fort Lauderdale Beach Park for this purpose, to cause a problem,” added Greenlaw.
A “planned” riot that brought out hundreds of cops in full riot gear, resulting in dozens of arrests, and the closure of bridges to the beach for at least an hour? Tear gas was reportedly deployed (although some accounts have the police denying it), there was some relatively light vandalism, a few busts for drug possession, and one guy got stabbed in the stomach – but refused to press charges.
I saw virtually no mention of this story on the national news, although it seemed like a pretty big deal. My interest piqued, I did some more digging and found local news reports adding a few more details. Evidently this sort of thing has happened on several previous holidays. The “planning” mentioned in the CBS report took place over social media, which was monitored by the authorities, which explains how they were ready to deal with the situation.
The Orlando Sentinel quoted a Fort Lauderdale resident saying it was “the biggest show of force by police I’ve ever seen… police were corralling people of the street in a very aggressive way.” He added that the perpetrators were “not the crowed who normally frequent the beach.”
Okay… but who were they? Not a single one of the dozens of media reports I read says a word about who these organized ruffians were. Nothing is quoted from the social media sites where the disturbance was coordinated. The Orlando Sentinel quotes police officers who dispersed a group of two hundred “troublemakers” from a parking lot. The cops describe them as “young males just hanging out, with seemingly no purpose” who were “blocking traffic, being real chippy, making threats.”
That’s about the closest I heard anyone come to describing a group that carried out a plan to terrorize tourists on a national holiday, a plan successful enough to essentially shut down the beach. Somehow, in this era of ubiquitous cell phone cameras, none of the news sites I visited had a photo or video of the troublemakers. TV news reports contented themselves with impressive daytime footage of the police car fleet rolling into the area, mixed with establishing shots of contented tourists strolling around during more placid times.
I have absolutely no idea who these kids were, after spending a couple of hours researching it. I’m making no insinuations about their identities, because I haven’t got enough information about them to do so. The point is that it seems to me that the identity of the perpetrators and the nature of the social media communications they used to organize the event would seem eminently newsworthy – Lord knows we promptly see screen shots and quotes from online postings related to just about any other big story. But everyone reporting on this particular disturbance seems to have gone to very great lengths to avoid telling the story, offering not a single drop of insight as to who the hooligans were, or what they told each other when they were assembling their large and rowdy crew. Was this just a few hundred entirely random young men who bumped into each other on Facebook and mutually agreed to trash the beach at Ft. Lauderdale on Memorial Day?