Miasma is defined as “an oppressive or unpleasant atmosphere that surrounds or emanates from something.” It is also my personal nickname for the city of Miami and for Miami-Dade County in general. It is a fitting nickname considering the foul stench emanating from the draconian Lauren Book Child Safety Ordinance, the 2006 law that restricts registered citizens from living 2500 feet from places children congregate. It is the Lauren Book law that has created a unique homeless crisis that has persisted for over a decade.
Before continuing my report, I’d like to point out this crisis is particularly unique to the territory of Ron and Lauren Book. The 2013 study “Transient Sex Offenders and Residence Restrictions in Florida” by Levenson, Ackerman, Socia and Harris found that Miami-Dade County alone accounted for 22.7% of the total transient homeless registrant population in Florida. The next largest transient population is Broward County, accounting for 13.7% of the state’s homeless registrant population, and is almost equally as restrictive. (Lauren Book lives in Broward County.) By contrast, the homeless registrant population for Duval Co./ Jacksonville is 4.3%, Orange Co./ Orlando is 8.3%, and Hillsboro Co./ Tampa Bay is only 1.9%. This crisis is truly unique to Lauren’s Kingdom.
A couple of months ago, I was contacted by a documentary film crew from the UK to take part in a film about the homeless registrant crisis in Miami. They also asked if I was planning any protests for that time; I hadn’t but I was willing to do one for the sake of the film. So, for these past three months, I tried to gather resources for a planned protest. This project was met with numerous setbacks—Lauren Book dragged me to court in an attempt to block me from protesting her organization, Hurricane Irma threw a monkey wrench (and tons of other debris) into our plans, Lauren Book cancelling her march, and scheduling conflicts and later last-minute alterations forced me to change the trip plans on the fly. But the show must go on, and as planned, I left for Miami Monday afternoon.
I had planned on staying in a hotel but after my associates cancelled their trip due to a personal emergency, I decided not to waste money on a hotel, and instead went out in search of a tent. I figured I could just buy a tent in Hialeah; there is a Walmart just a brisk 15 minute walk from the camp. However, upon my arrival, I found the Walmart had been shut down. Some claimed it was looted while others claimed it was flooded. Whatever the case, I was still without a tent. I was scheduled to meet the film crew at 6:30pm but they were late, and so I left for another Wal-Mart father away. I found a Target store slightly closer and decided to go inside. I found a small tent for $30, but air mattresses and gallons of water were nowhere to be found. I did find a twin sized memory foam mattress topper, however, as well as a bucket for bathing. By the time I returned to the camp and set up shop, it was about midnight. The heat and humidity was stifling, with an actual temperature of 88 degrees at midnight and a real feel of “how do I get talked into these projects”?
The camp had changed quite a bit since I was last at the camp on Christmas. The building where many of the residents used to park at night was sold and the new company fenced off the property and parked Diesel Trucks in the lot to prevent registrants from parking there. The place between the buildings where trails once forged a path through the field was blocked off and the weeds cut down. Fencing was also placed across the street. As a result, the bulk of the camp shifted half a block east to the right. Also, the main camp is larger now since those who lived behind the bushes along the tracks were now forced to live roadside. Debris from hurricane cleanup still lay in piles along the street.
I set up my tent away from the main camp in a quiet location. After 4 hours of rather fitful sleep, I took a birdbath and dressed for the day. I spoke to a couple of the camp residents because I wanted to know what happened to camp residents. My main contact, “T”, told me they were rounded up and herded to the Miami-Dade Correctional Center’s visitor area, where they lacked access to shower facilities and food for a week. One other resident who told me he was from Alabama was actually set to be released from prison on September 8th; he told me they released him straight from the prison to the prison’s visitor area, where he was forced to sleep on top of a metal table, adding he would have better off back in his old cell. They were not free to leave until the all clear was given a week later. Thus, the Alabama man had only been free for about 5 days. One of the other residents told me he remembered the Book family coming to the camp “a couple of weeks ago” but no one there believes them. Interestingly, they were not aware that the Books were directly responsible for the laws. The few I spoke to like the idea of protesting but they can’t do it for obvious reasons. I bought a few supplies for a couple of residents, then decided to spend my day sightseeing, as the film crew wasn’t going to be there until 7pm.
I took public transportation to Miami Beach, but not to see the beach; I visited the Holocaust Memorial monument due to the significance of that monument to our movement. Ten years ago, Tom Madison of Oregon, my closest ally in the cause and co-founder of the Anti-Registry Movement, put together the first public demonstration across the street from the Monument inside the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce. However, the Chamber cancelled their scheduled media room use, and when Tom tried to move the event to the Monument across the street, the Miami Beach PD threatened them with arrest, forcing them to move the event to under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. It would have been a fitting backdrop for a protest against an American tragedy. Interestingly, ten years later, people from the same part of the country are STILL trying to block our right to protest.
While I was out sightseeing, a private process server came looking for me at the camp, claiming he needs to desperately find me because “someone owes me money.” In reality, he was trying to serve me with papers trying to scare me into not protesting the Book family. Unbeknownst to them, I had no plans to protest since Tom had to cancel his flight and I had no backup. I was not about to protest alone because I wanted witnesses in case Lauren or Ron Book claimed I tried to attack them. (They’ve already lied about me over the past two years.) No one knew where I was at, so George the Process Server failed in his mission. The Books also called my registration office once again, but I had contacted them beforehand. Lauren’s attempts at intimidating me fell flat.
Finally, at 7pm, the “big moment” had arrived; I spent two hours in the interview defending my cause. The Interviewer was pretty harsh with me, but as always, I spoke from the heart (which I’m sure probably has my haters worried). Long before this interview, I had shared with them many facts about recidivism as well as the story of the homeless issue in Miami. The focus of the interview was only a little on my work but mostly on this homeless crisis. There is one big interesting takeaway from the interview; Lauren’s “victim” story continues to be used to justify these laws. As I’ve stated numerous times over the years, Lauren’s victim story makes her largely protected from criticism. My criticisms were largely met with “but Lauren suffered horrific abuse.” My response was, “Lauren’s past experiences does not justify her present actions.” They told me the books “regret” passing the law and were working to fix it; my response (complete with Austin Powers air quotes) was that they’ve been “working” to fix this crisis they created for over a decade but they won’t do the one thing that would actually solve this issue—repealing the Lauren Book Child Safety Ordinance. Also intriguing is no one EVER asks me about my past before my offense, including this film crew, but we are expected to honor Lauren’s past. I find that extremely hypocritical, and what I think is my most powerful statements I made was, “Are we allowed to live for the future or are we going to forever be living in the past? This isn’t 1999, it’s 2017.”
After every interview, I always take the time to reflect on it, and after hearing the tone of the interview, I have to be skeptical that even now our cause will be shown in the proper context; I guess we won’t know for sure until this film will be aired on the BBC in a few weeks. Another interesting observation was the entire film crew consisted of three rather small ladies, and they told me not once did they feel threatened in any way at the camp, surrounded by those labeled “sexual predators.” That entire idea of those at the camp posing a unique danger to society doesn’t exactly hold much weight taking this fact into consideration.
This trip was seemingly a disaster from start to finish, but if nothing else, I took the opportunity to visit the camp and perhaps expose the U.K. to some of our truths, but the work in Miami is far from over. Ten years after Lauren Book placed her imprimatur on the ordinance causing the crisis in Miami, the Books continue to play the role of the Miasma hovering over Miami-Dade and South Florida.
By: Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com
September 24, 2017