Art Acevedo, who Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has dubbed the “Tom Brady” and “Michael Jordan” of police chiefs, was defeated after Miami city commissioners voted unanimously last night for fire the Miami Police Department’s (MPD) top policeman – and he came with a little help from an unlikely source: the far right.
During a grueling commission hearing on Thursday, a lawyer for city manager Art Noriega called witnesses to testify on eight reasons Noriega explained why he suspended Acevedo on Monday and why commissioners should vote to remove the chief of the police who marched into town on a metaphorical mayor’s parade float just six months ago.
From a joke that the MPD was run by the ‘Cuban Mafia’ to a suggestion on Spanish-language radio that the city should force agents to be vaccinated, the eight-point list of Noriega’s alleged transgressions also included a “misguided interaction” with a civilian – the one that prompted Acevedo to ask Noriega to issue a formal reprimand.
During the meeting, Noriega’s attorney released an excerpt from an aggressive exchange between Acevedo and a member of the Proud Boys – a far-right group linked to white nationalism and increasingly present in Miami – during the meeting. ‘a demonstration of Patria y Vida in July in Little Havana.
In the clip, the Proud Boy member walks up to Acevedo and asks him why he’s hanging out with “Communists” and “Black Lives Matter”.
The chief leaves. “Why do you care? Because it’s my fucking job!” Acevedo shouts, approaching the man’s face.
When the incident happened in July, New times reported that the civilian was a member of the Proud Boys. Now New times has confirmed the identity of the man: Ozzy Perez Cerezal, according to several sources (including a former member of the Proud Boys who asked not to be named in this article).
Cerezal is Latinos vice president for Trump and a member of the Vice City chapter of the Proud Boys in Miami – a chapter founded by former Proud Boys president Enrique Tarrio. The chapter has since been disowned by the national organization and is not on the official chapter lists on Telegram.
Cerezal did not respond to a phone call or text from New times looking for comments.
During last night’s hearing, the commission attempted to distance the civilian’s connection with a hate group.
When Acevedo’s attorney John Byrne cross-examined Noriega, the attorney directly asked the city manager if he knew the man in the video was a member of the Proud Boys.
Noriega said he knew and didn’t care.
“I don’t care what he told him. He’s been a police chief for 15 years,” Noriega said, her voice starting to rise in a rare moment of open aggravation. “He acted inappropriately. He has to lead by example.”
Commissioner Joe Carollo – who has been a vocal advocate for Acevedo’s dismissal after the “Cuban Mafia” comment – also tried to downplay the Acevedo antagonist’s affiliation with the notorious hate group. Carollo said he was unsure if the man was a member of the Proud Boys, but knew enough about him to say he served in Afghanistan.
“I don’t know if he’s a pride [sic] Boy, I don’t know if he’s a Black Panther, I don’t know if he’s an American Indian or what he is, ”Carollo said from the platform. “But I’ll tell you something: he’s a Marine Corps veteran. ”
As they continued to gain notoriety after the Jan.6 uprising, the Proud Boys stepped into Miami local government chambers and, perhaps unwittingly, contributed to the dramatic downfall of one of the country’s most prominent police chiefs.