The Miami Beach city commission on Sunday voted to extend an extraordinary 8pm curfew and emergency powers for up to three more weeks to help control unruly and mostly maskless crowds that have converged on the party destination during Spring Break.
Thousands of people have packed the city’s Art Deco Cultural District resulting in bedlam and lawlessness in recent days when university students typically celebrate Spring Break.
Mayor Dan Gelber told an emergency meeting of the city commission that all manner of out-of-town and out-of-state visitors, not just college students, were filling the streets since
‘It looked like a rock concert. All you could see was wall to wall people,’ City Manager Raul Aguila told the commission.
Miami Beach Police Department officers enforce the South beach 8pm curfew, during spring break on Saturday night. The curfew has been extended through April 12
Defiant crowds responded to the curfew on Saturday by jumping on top of cars, twerking and throwing money into the air
Police officers detain a man as they enforce an 8pm curfew imposed by local authorities on spring break festivities in Miami Beach on Saturday
Aguila said he noticed a surge on Friday night and imposed emergency powers on Saturday to set a curfew and close streets and highways in the area.
The commission on Sunday agreed to grant Aguila the authority to extend the curfew and street closures for up to three more seven-day periods as needed, starting on Tuesday.
Gelber said the mass crowds gathered at a time when the surrounding county was experiencing 1,000 new infections of COVID-19 each day and with 50 to 100 people being hospitalized each day.
After days of partying, including several confrontations between police and large crowds, Miami Beach officials had enough and ordered the first emergency curfew from 8pm til 6 am Saturday.
On Saturday night, officers in bulletproof vests dispersed pepper spray balls to break up wild groups that descended on sunny South Beach by the thousands, trashing restaurants and flooding the streets without masks or social distancing despite COVID-19 restrictions.
Miami Beach Police detain a man as he plays loud music on a wireless speaker on Ocean Drive last week, during the start of the crackdown on Spring Breakers
Miami Beach Police Department officers pile on top of someone to arrest them as they enforce the South beach 8pm curfew during spring break, in Miami Beach, Florida on Saturday
A SWAT vehicle was filmed moving down Ocean Drive – a popular party street – and using an LRAD, also known as a sound cannon, to get people to disperse, video posted to Twitter shows.
Tourists were urged to stay inside their hotels and pedestrians or vehicles were not allowed to enter the restricted area after 8pm.
The emergency order caused confusion, and defiance, in some cases. It was announced at 4pm, just four hours before it was to go into effect.
Videos flooded social media during that time as rebellious – but largely nonviolent – crowds refused to disperse.
Some people responded by jumping on top of cars, twerking and throwing money into the air.
Around 9pm, Miami Beach Police tweeted pictures of empty streets. An email and phone call to Miami Beach Police was not immediately returned Sunday.
‘Our city in this area has become a tinder,’ Mayor Gelber said at a press conference Saturday. ‘And we can’t have a policy of simply hoping it’s not lit.’
The curfew comes as the iconic bar, the Clevelander South Beach, announced it was temporarily suspending all food and beverage operations until at least March 24 after crowds crammed Ocean Drive, breaking out into street fights.
At another restaurant next door, tables and chairs were smashed during a fight, news outlets reported.
Local officials and businesses have struggled to balance courting tourists to boost the economy while doing so safely amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Miami tourism officials say billions of dollars were lost when the pandemic first erupted last year, canceling spring break and forcing beach closures across the Sunshine State. The city’s tourism arm just spent $5 million on its biggest national advertising campaign in 20 years.
At the same time, local officials banned alcohol from the beach, along with all alcohol sales after 10pm in an effort to curb partying. The city even sent cellphone text messages to tourists warning, ‘Vacation Responsibly or Be Arrested.’
‘Spring break in Miami Beach may be one of the great rites of passage, but only if you plan on following the rules. Otherwise, you might as well just stay home and save yourself the court costs,’ the message read.
But local officials have struggled to enforce COVID ordinances. Under Republican Governor Ron DeSantis´ pro-business stance, Florida has no statewide mask rules, limits on capacity or other such restrictions.
Developing story, more to follow.