The Politics of Laying Blame

There are many perspectives on what happened in our core tourist area and beyond on Saturday – but this was exactly what the Daytona Beach Resort Area didn’t need.

Not now.

With our hospitality industry in shreds and much of our local economy still closed – the coordinated influx of thousands of out-of-town visitors, invited to Daytona Beach by faceless event promoters who use social media to publicize events, then vaporize when things descend into lawlessness and violence – has left another indelible blemish on “the brand.”

Given the inevitable international media coverage that follows these things – with over-hyped headlines like “Blood on the Boardwalk” – our already taxed tourism industry will be forced to further repair an already tattered reputation.

In the aftermath, officials each have their own unique take on the event – law enforcement leaders consider their response a success because crowd and traffic control strategies worked as planned – politicians and social activists are seizing the moment to point fingers and Monday morning quarterback – while residents are left reeling from the sights and sounds of a chaotic fracas that brought fear of widespread violence that was flogged – non-stop – on social media.

We live in a world where information travels at the speed of a keystroke – where anyone with an iPhone camera and a Facebook account can push their physical and social point of view to the masses, literally at the push of a button.

On Saturday night, many of us first learned of the event when social media lit up with snippets of video showing traffic blockages on A-1-A, reports of a mass shooting near Ocean Walk, scenes of Sheriff Chitwood directing this deputies through a haze after a sports car smoked the tires danger close to a mass of onlookers, throngs of people blocking roadways, followed by another unruly commotion when someone distributed cash to the crowd through the sunroof of a surrounded vehicle.

For many residents, the event unfolded in a series of online vignettes and secondhand accounts – then speculation and confusion reigned as people chose to craft a narrative from these scraps and clips – rather than trust official sources.

Then, in the aftermath, fear naturally turned to anger as some questioned why beach authorities allowed large groups of people to openly violate the social distancing rules that hundreds of locals have been warned and cited for in recent weeks – not realizing that de-escalation techniques often require a tightening, or loosening, of enforcement measures to avoid unrest.

Trust me:  These are decisions only those who are actually in the arena can make – often modifying strategies on the fly as circumstances change – and I believe our city and county officials did a commendable job of maintaining order and keeping people safe in a potentially explosive situation.

For instance, in 2018, after the Daytona Truck Meet turned into a scene from Mad Max: Fury Road, law enforcement regained control with the issuance of some 2,100 traffic citations – while city and county officials vowed never to host the event again.

In the United States of America, people of all races, colors, creeds and social pursuits have a right to peaceably assemble for lawful purposes – like gathering to enjoy a weekend at the beach.

In my view, second-guessing law enforcement – or demanding accountability for what was a textbook logistical example of how to move large numbers of people and vehicles out of the area following the shooting incident while returning stability to pockets of disorder – is, at best, misplaced anger, and, at worst, a quick way to place blame.

Yesterday, we were again reminded of the difficult and dangerous work our courageous law enforcement officers face everyday, when a man who had just attempted to carjack a woman in broad daylight turned his rifle on Daytona Beach police officers – who responded decisively to protect themselves and others.

We simply must stop blaming the police for societal failures they cannot control.

The fact is, any group that visits the Worlds Most Famous Beach has an obligation to follow the rules, obey the law, conform to the social mores and community standards that residents embrace as they enjoy our greatest natural amenity in a way that promotes public safety and leaves locals anxiously awaiting their return.

This isn’t about race – at least it shouldn’t be – and anyone who suggests otherwise is taking a very narrow view of the unfortunate events of Saturday.

And it isn’t about Daytona Beach – similar scenes of irresponsible behavior played out in places around the nation this weekend, as people sought relief from weeks of deprivation and isolation.

It is about personal responsibility and the perils of a flash-point mob mentality, when a few bad actors take advantage of a worsening situation and act out, engaging in selfish, violent and irresponsible behavior that diminishes our quality of life, instills fear, consumes civic services and, in the aftermath, irreparably damages the reputation of a community dependent on tourism.

In my view, when the influx of visitors is the result of a quasi-organized event that receives no permit or official authorization – one which places our community’s response behind the curve by requiring our public safety and planning officials guess at everything from the number of participants to adequate traffic patterns, staffing and crowd control strategies – that is unacceptable, and the blames lies squarely with irresponsible promoters who should ultimately be held accountable for their actions.









14 thoughts on “The Politics of Laying Blame

  1. Sunday was my 66th Birthday, and we had planned to go to Daytona at sunrise to watch it at the beach. As a former LEO familiar with responses to these types of events, we made the decision not to go based on my supposition that the parking areas and such would be closed off at that time of the morning, making it difficult to get to the beach at all. So rather than go to Daytona and have breakfast at a Daytona-area restaurant, we stayed home and slept in. Its a shame.

    That said, I commend the coordination between agencies, the pre-planning when the rumor of an event was discovered and the swift action to gain control by all involved. Great job.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good article. There’s many things to blame the local gov from doing wrong but you can’t put an illegal gathering that was socially promoted on them. The city didn’t approve it but had to deal with it as best as possible.


  2. What I thought was funny is Billie Wheeler saying that she was on the phone with someone in the area while this was happening and could actually hear the gunshots. “We had citizens that were terrorized in their homes, they heard gunshots,” she said. “As I was talking to one citizen who was calling me and while I’m talking to them there are gunshots in the background.” Why would anyone call their representative on the County Council if they really felt terrorized?


  3. Good God, with all police and top police brass we have in County, City, no one saw this coming?
    I implore all readers of this column to research the budget for police for City of Daytona, and the budget for Volusia County Sheriff Dept. These budgets are huge. Where was Derrick Henry and the Daytona City Manager? Where are the expensive drones they have purchased?


  4. Exactly. To solve a problem regarding people, 1st amendment rights and such go to the source. Follow the money and it leads to the promoters.
    Profit over facts nearly got some people killed. Think about that.


    1. I agree with “usually,”. In this instance the promoter was a young woman from Bethune Cookman with a talent for marketing. Maybe they sold tickets to the after/party stripper show. Not sure what else may have benefited her.


  5. It’s amazing that you see the puddle after the
    Storm …
    chit Wood did his best … but he had the best start that we as beachside home owners did
    Not have .. we are
    Not in the same groups that promoted. “
    Invade Daytona … this was planned … on social media …. if your in the right group … please alert everyone when you can …. it’s planned agai. In June 6 …. please protect us the most important person/thing / loved including the love of my life, friends on and
    Off the force need some protections …
    Filter the beach earlier …please I beg you …
    My life is in your hands


  6. The large police presence from DBPD and the Sheriff’s office was because they knew it was coming. They were there and on scene and reacted as needed to bad behavior. It could have been much worse if they hadn’t been there to react. Chitwood is on it…chief capri is a tool because he speaks without thinking but atleast he spoke. The mayor was afraid to speak… he had the same intel and knew it was coming. Is he afraid to speak about bad behavior because they were black? isnt that kinda reverse racism? He certainly spoke about the out of control truck event a couple years ago with a bunch of dumb white idiots…
    Bad behavior is bad behavior, regardless of color. Real leaders act on what is right and are color blind when it comes to justice! Mark, I don’t always agree when you speak, but you are spot on with this one!


  7. Promoters responsible, fines, police overtime charges, trash cleanup fees, filming without permit fees, open containers, illegal guns- this could be a cash cow !


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