Lawsuit Over Mural Honoring Police Shooting Victim in Miami Beach Returns to Court

A censorship lawsuit over an artwork removed by city officials in Miami Beach returned to court on September 22, the Art Newspaper reported.

Rodney Jackson’s Memorial to Raymond Herisse (2019) was a portrait commemorating the life of Haitian American Raymond Herisse, who was shot and killed by police during Miami Beach’s Urban Beach Weekend festivities in 2011. As part of the ReFrame Miami Beach project, Memorial to Raymond Herisse was included in the exhibition “I See You, Too,” staged with candles in front the four-foot square vinyl piece.

The suit claims that following complaints from the police, city officials took down the work shortly after it was installed. US District judge Marcia G. Cooke previously ruled that the city had the right to remove works that it had commissioned in 2022.

A judge in the latest hearing, held in the US Court of Appeals, has questioned this decision.

“This is not a piece of art that shows the decedent underground, riddled with bullet holes, bleeding with police officers standing over him with their smoking guns. It is as innocuous a piece of art as I think I’ve seen,” said the US Circuit judge Adalberto Jordan.

The court brought up the question of ownership and whether the city changed its stance on being able to display or remove the work.

“The city didn’t commission this piece of art, the city authorized the curators to mount an exhibit which would tell stories from different perspectives,” argued counsel Alan Levine of the Miami-based firm Valiente Carollo & McElligott, who is representing the four plaintiffs, curators Octavia Yearwood, Jared McGriff, and Naiomy Guerrero, as well as artist Rodney Jackson.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the curators and artist in 2020, is seeking damages plus a comparable display for the duration of time it was intended to be shown as part of the exhibition before its removal, as the organization outlined in a statement.