After a tumultuous weekend of protests across South Florida that saw demonstrators face-off with police, two men were recognized by Miami-Dade County officials for trying to maintain peace during the chaos.
The two men were part of Sunday’s peaceful protest in Downtown Miami, which saw demonstrators march across the city and onto I-95 without incident.
However, in the evening, as the countywide curfew went into effect, a group of people were seen smashing windows at a CVS near Biscayne Boulevard.
That’s when officials say the two men, along with other protestors, stepped in and prevented the store from being looted.
County Mayor Carlos Gimenez called the men a “beacon of hope” before condemning the actions of those that vandalized the store.
“I support everyone’s American right to protest, but we cannot do it by setting things on fire, breaking or looting businesses,” Gimenez said. “That is not a peaceful protest.”
Ben Torrens, a Social Studies teacher at Miami Arts Charter, was one of the two men recognized by Gimenez, and was awarded a certificate of appreciation by Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared when I realized looting was possibly about to happen,” Torrens said. “An old saying goes, bravery is not the absence of fear, it’s doing something despite it.”
Torrens added that the group that first began throwing objects at the store were not associated with the original protest that took place that afternoon.
A total of 28 people were arrested Sunday night, according to Miami-Dade Police. Nearly half the number of arrests that were made Saturday night.