The morning of April 17, Wilbur Cauley left all of his belongings in their usual place: stacked by a fence under the I-395 overpass at NW First Court and 13th Street. It was in the middle of a four-block area where about 30 homeless Miamians live. That morning, Cauley, an Army veteran in his late 50s who served three years in Germany, went to a nearby store for a soda. When he returned, he says, a man in a dark-green shirt was kicking bags that contained Cauley’s birth certificate, driver’s license, clothes, bedding, and even the food he keeps on hand to avoid diabetic shock.
“I said, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ and I tried to get my stuff,” Cauley recalls. “But the guy wouldn’t let me get anything. He grabbed my arm and then he took all my stuff… They threw it all away. They took everything I have.”
Cauley’s version of events is supported by photos, video footage, and testimony from a half-dozen eyewitnesses, including Benji Waxman, a Miami lawyer and volunteer at the American Civil Liberties Union, and David Peery, a local activist who has experienced homelessness himself. Waxman and Peery have been involved in homelessness advocacy in Miami for years, and they say tensions between the city and locals have spiked in recent months.