May 18th, 1980

Protests Continue After Four Police Officers Are Acquitted of Beating Arthur McDuffie

On December 17, 1979, Arthur McDuffie, a 33-year-old African American insurance sales representative, was riding a motorcycle when he was signaled to pull over by Metro-Dade Police Department (MDPD) officers in Miami, Florida. Mr. McDuffie did not comply, beginning an eight-mile chase through Miami. After he was apprehended, MDPD officers beat him into a coma. There is no evidence that he physically resisted arrest, and officers later ran over Mr. McDuffie's motorcycle to make it appear as if he had been in an accident. Mr. McDuffie died four days later. After an autopsy confirmed witness reports that he had been beaten to death, five MDPD officers were charged with manslaughter and evidence tampering.

The incident was heavily covered by Miami's black news media. High poverty, a 40% black unemployment rate, and an influx of new immigrants from the West Indies already had local racial tensions high. The officers' trial took place in Tampa after the prosecution obtained a change of venue and lasted six weeks. On May 18, 1980, an all-white jury found the officers not guilty and violence broke out across Miami, sparking nine days of riots more violent than those of the 1960s. The National Guard responded and a state of emergency was declared. The riots left 57 dead, more than 1400 arrested, and $125 million in property damage.