Miami Beach officials have extended the emergency curfew for three weeks after more than 1000 party revellers were arrested for flouting COVID-19 safety protocols during the spring break.
Authorities say massive crowds on the beaches have brought “chaos and disorder” to the city.
In recent weeks, South Beach in Miami has witnessed unruly crowds, fighting in the streets, stampedes and police confrontations, including the use of pepper balls, local reports said. Besides the arrests since February, at least five police officials have also been injured on the job during the ruckus.
In extending the unusual 8 pm to 6 am curfew till 12 April, Miami Beach authorities are aiming to “contain the overwhelming crowd of visitors and the potential for violence, disruption and damage to property.”
The curfew is in place for four days a week, from Thursday through Sunday for three more weeks.
Miami Beach mayor Dan Gelber told CNN, “Too many are coming, really, without the intention of following the rules, and the result has been a level of chaos and disorder that is just something more than we can endure.”
On Saturday, the streets remained crowded with thousands of maskless people, as police confronted the revellers which then led to a stampede. Police also used pepper balls to control the crowd.
Miami Herald reported that the curfew “affects South Beach’s main strips of Ocean Drive, Washington Avenue, Collins Avenue and Española Way from 5th to 16th streets, an area bound by Ocean Drive to the east and Pennsylvania Avenue to the west.”
Restaurants in the zone can remain open, it said, for deliveries until 6 am, “but their sidewalk cafes and COVID-era outdoor seating expansion must close at 8 pm.”
David Richardson, a member of the Miami Beach City Commission, told the New York Times, “I believe it’s a lot of pent-up demand from the pandemic and people wanting to get out, and our state has been publicly advertised as being open, so that’s contributing to the issue.”
The City Manager Raul Aguila was quoted by local reports as saying that many spring break party-goers are coming “to engage in lawlessness and an anything-goes party attitude.”
The crowd were “defiant, but mostly non-violent” and some jumped on to the top of cars, “twerking and throwing money into the air,” the Associated Press reported.
South Florida counties have issued an “extremely rare” joint statement expressing concerns that the decision to cancel COVID-19 fines “sends a message that masks and other common-sense health measures are no longer needed,” the Sun-Sentinel reported. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis had cancelled COVID-19 related fines, news reports claimed, as “part of his push to block local governments from enforcing mask mandates and other public health measures.”
Mayor Gelber, meanwhile, told the news, that he was worried about the “out-of-control parties.”
“When hundreds of people are running through the streets panicked, you realize that’s not something that a police force can control,” he said during a commission meeting Sunday.
Miami Beach authorities response to spring break revellers has also come under fire especially from the local Black leaders. New York Times reported that the city’s decision to send police in riot-gear to the South Beach entertainment district has irked local Black leaders who noted that “many of the spring breakers who had been dispersed were young African-Americans.”
They also criticised the poor management of the curfew and its enforcement.
Mayor Gelber said that there are still 1,000 infections reported daily and 50 to 100 people checking into hospitals each day in Dade County. At least 32,000 Floridians have died due to Covid-19 and two million have been infected.