1980 Timeline

NOTE: This is a partial timeline, still under development. 


Dec. 17 — More than a dozen cops chase insurance salesman Arthur McDuffie as he flees from them on a Kawasaki motorcycle. He’s taken to hospital with severe head injuries.

Dec. 21 — McDuffie dies in Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Dec. 24 — First story of McDuffie death: “Cops Role in Death Probed,” by Edna Buchanan, page B1.

Dec. 26-27 — Nine cops suspended. One of them, Charles Veverka Jr. talks to prosecutor George Yoss and says report was fabricated.

Dec. 27 — Cuba announces crackdown on “common and counter-revolutionary criminals.”

Dec. 28 — Five officers charged involving McDuffie death and reports.


Jan. 1 — Veverka, Mark Meier get immunity. Will testify.

Feb. 1 — School Superintendent Johnny Jones, county’s top black official, indicted in “gold plumbing caper.” Police fire 8 linked to McDuffie’s death.

Feb. 16 — 16 Cubans hijack freighter, go to Florida.

Feb. 19 — Cubans threaten open boat-lift unless US stops hijackings.

Feb. 29 — Judge Lenore Nesbitt orders “time bomb” trial moved to Tampa.

March 3 — Bus smashes into Venezuelan embassy in Havana.

March 8 — Castro warns of boat-lift unless US acts.

March 10 — Jones pleads not guilty.

March 27 — Cuba tells US it’s thinking of an open boat-lift to take Cubans to Florida.

March 28 — Charges dropped against Officer William Francis Hanlon; he agrees to testify. Several Cubans use a city bus to break gates into Peruvian embassy.

March 31 — Jury selection begins in Tampa.

April 1 — Bus breaks into Peruvian embassy.

April 4 — Fidel Castro removes guards from embassy. Over next three days, 10,000 rush into the embassy.

April 9 — Carter: “Hearts go out” to the 10,000 seeking freedom.

April 15 — Jury selected in Tampa: Six white males, most of them long-term government employees, including two retired military men.

April 17 — Trial starts.

April 19 — Cuba says port open for Cuban-Americans to pick up refugees.

April 21 — 40 Cubans in a boat arrive in Key West. Over next three days, 1000 boats race to Mariel.

April 23 — US says it’s illegal to bring in foreigners who don’t have proper visas.

April 30 — Jones found guilty by all-white jury, sentenced to three years.

April — 7,600 Cubans arrive in Florida via Mariel harbor.

May — 86,000 Cubans arrive — about two-thirds of all who come through Mariel in 1980.

May 5 — Carter: “Open heart and open arms to refugees seeking freedom.”

May 6 — 47 in Congress ask Carter for “orderly evacuation.”

May 8 — Judge throws out charges against Officer Ubaldo “Ed” delToro after prosecution rests because no evidence indicated he was guilty.

May 17  — In morning, a crowd in the hundreds of thousands march in Havana against U.S. Interest Section. Customs announces they’ve seized 97 boats in past three days. Early on a Saturday afternoon, the Tampa jurors acquit the four remaining officers of all charges. Riots explode in Liberty City and Overtown.

May 17, 18, 19 — Riots rage. Eighteen are killed. Property damage runs to at least $100 million.

June — 20,000 Cubans arrive — about 17 percent of Mariel total for year.

July 29 — Ex-officer Charles Veverka Jr., who had been an immunized witness for prosecutors at Tampa trial, indicted by federal grand jury for violating McDuffie’s civil rights.

Sept. 26 — Cuba formally closes Mariel to boat-lift refugees.

Oct. 13 — “Refugee duties hamper war on pot smuggling,” Miami News 1A headline.

Oct. 21 — “Carter defends his refugee policy during town hall meeting in Miami,” Miami News 1A. Speaking at Edison High School during his campaign against Ronald Reagan, as Haitian refugees protested outside, demanding asylum.

Nov. 4 — County passes anti-bilingualism ordinance, prohibiting county from spending funds for utilizing any other language than English or promoting any culture other than that of the United States.

Dec. 8 — Veverka federal trial opens in San Antonio, after judge moves it first from Miami to Atlanta, then to New Orleans before ending up in Texas.

Dec. 17 — Veverka acquitted. “Miami streets tense but quiet.”