Monday, June 29, 2015

The way we were....Cops try to shut down Miami's first underground newspaper in the Summer of '69

via Coconut Grove Grapevine


Jerry Powers was ahead of his time.

In the summer of 1969, Miami cops did everything they could to harass Powers, who was the 22-year-old publisher of the Miami Free Press and the Daily Planet, Miami's first underground newspapers - including arresting the paper's teen-age newsboys. Police called the paper's contents, "obscene."

Associated Press,  April 21, 1969.

Powers told the AP, "One morning we may wake up with a 1984 situation here in Florida, where the police can do anything they want."

In August 1969, Powers dared cops to arrest him.

From a 2009 Miami New Times story:
Jerry Powers strolls the sidewalk outside the stately Biltmore Way entrance to Coral Gables City Hall. An impish 23-year-old New Jersey native with a shaggy black mop top and mutton-chop sideburns, he carries a newspaper bundle under his left arm. It is the ninth issue of the Daily Planet and Miami Free Press, a fledgling underground newspaper he founded four months earlier.

Around 10 a.m. August 25, 1969, the muggy air causes his dark polyester slacks to cling to his legs. But the stifling heat does not deter him.

Near the Mediterranean-revival building's front door, Powers hands a newspaper to a heavyset, silver-maned man, who unfolds the tabloid to reveal a front-page spoof of the City of Miami's plans to annex Coconut Grove. Powers gives copies to three other passersby.

He's daring the cops to arrest him.

Inside city hall, Coral Gables City Attorney Charles Spooner addresses a gaggle of reporters crowding his desk. The well-groomed lawyer with a Brylcreem pompadour and a tightly knotted tie says the Daily Planet is obscene and has no place in Dade County. Eight merchants who carry the twice-monthly publication have been threatened with arrest. "Perhaps we are a little bit more backcountry than a big city like San Francisco," he says. "From reading [the Daily Planet], I don't know how it meets the social needs of our community."

Powers presses on as four Gables cops approach. A tall one wearing Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses takes a copy of the Daily Planet, peruses it, and then abruptly grabs Powers's right arm. "You are under arrest for distributing obscene material," he announces while walking Powers to a squad car. The fledgling publisher sits comfortably in the back seat, his right arm hanging out the window. A reporter asks if the arrest was a surprise.

"We sort of expected this to happen because the people in Coral Gables are used to burning books," Powers declares. "The city attorney, by the way, and this is a fact and I have documentation, is on a mailing list [for] sex literature. I think [this is] his motive for causing this arrest."

"Move away," the cop barks. "No one should be talking to this man."


Miami News, Aug. 26, 1969.

In 1974, the Daily Planet ceased publication.

In 1992, Powers launched Ocean Drive magazine.

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