Miami Police Chief John Timoney had four words for the protester pinned against a car by undercover officers: “You’re bad. F— you!” Timoney made his blunt remark as he helped secure an area behind police lines during last week’s Miami demonstrations by cautioning people to clear out or face arrests, the Miami Herald reports.
Timoney didn’t sit in an air-conditioned office during the protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit. The Herald said he rode abicycle, foregoing steel-tipped boots, a gas mask and body armor in favor of a plastic bike helmet, a polo shirt, and shorts.
Timoney doesn’t like radical protesters, whom he dismisses as “punks” and “knuckleheads.” “They look like ants scattering,” he said after viewing them from a helicopter. Last Thursday, some protesters they lifted an enlarged picture of him on a pole with the words “Chief Attack on Democracy Timoney” on it. “This guy has brutalized and eviscerated constitutional rights of peaceful protesters,” said New York activist Bill Dobbs, a spokesman for the demonstrators. “He’s a dangerous man.”
Civil liberties groups and unions complained of unlawful arrests and violations of constitutional rights. But almost as soon as the pepper spray settled over downtown this week, local leaders declared a law-enforcement victory. They said Miami authorities set a standard for how to deal with the kind of volatile protests that have scarred cities like Seattle, Washington, Philadelphia, and Cancún.
Much of the credit went to Timoney, a brash Irishman and former New York street cop hired in Miami last year to reform a troubled police force. He had experienced similar demonstrations as police chief in Philadelphia during the 2000 Republican National Convention before taking on a private-sector job.
Timoney’s constant presence on the ground, in the air, and on the water last week kept officers on their toes. Like a war general, Timoney walked the front lines all week, patting the shoulders of officers dressed in full riot regalia, telling them they were doing a good job.
Early last Thursday, Timoney hit the streets on a bicycle. The first report trickled in: A group of about 200 unpermitted protesters. Timoney tailed them from the next block over, crouching on his bicycle. A red pickup truck filled with undercover officers crept next to him; they said they had seen a nearby demonstrator dressed completely in black fill his backpack with rocks.
Timoney himself hustled toward the demonstrators and grabbed one by the arm. “Take it easy. What’s in the bag?” Timoney said. Two other officers rushed toward them and grabbed the demonstrator’s bag, dumping its contents on the sidewalk. No rocks. By the time police began clashing with violent protesters, adrenaline was the only thing keeping Timoney on his feet. He had eaten only a banana and an oatmeal cookie since 6 a.m. He never put on a gas mask as canisters filled with gas landed around him. He fought off a gust of the acrid smoke by wiping mucus and tears from his sunburned cheeks with a loud “Argh! “This is Timoney’s moment. He lives for this.