The Miami Beach city commission has 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.
Defiant crowds of revelers ignored the order for the second night in a row on Sunday taking to the streets and throwing cash in the air as they taunted police ordering them to disperse.
Cops responded with a heavy presence but softer tactics than the night before, using loud sirens and a skirmish line to slowly push the crowd west out of the city’s main nightlife strip of Ocean Drive.
In recent days, thousands of people have packed the city’s Art Deco Cultural District resulting in bedlam and lawlessness when college students typically celebrate Spring Break.
Police and goodwill workers from the city of Miami herd large crowds off Ocean Drive on Sunday for a second night in a row. The Miami Beach city commission on Sunday voted to extend an extraordinary 8pm curfew and emergency powers
In recent days, thousands of people have packed the city’s Art Deco Cultural District resulting in bedlam and lawlessness
A woman flaunts her freedom as Spring Breakers look on during the second night of curfew in Miami Beach on Sunday
Cops responded Sunday with a heavy presence but softer tactics than the night before, slowly pushing the crowd west
Known as ‘Black Spring Break’, the Miami Beach event draws many black revelers, and black church leaders have accused the police of using ‘unnecessary force’ to break up the crowds
After police in tactical gear and SWAT vehicles used pepper balls and sound cannons to disperse the crowds on Saturday night, black church leaders decried the tactics as an unnecessary use of force and racially motivated.
The festivities in Miami Beach are often known as ‘Black Spring Break’ and draw many black visitors.
Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements told the Miami Herald on Sunday his officers only fired tear gas as the crowd began to surge toward them. He said police wouldn’t fire the pepper balls simply to break up a crowd, and that the incident would be reviewed internally.
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 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on February 26 called the state an ‘oasis of freedom’ from coronavirus restrictions.
‘It looked like a rock concert. All you could see was wall to wall people,’ City Manager Raul Aguila told the commission.
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.
Women in revealing outfits are seen on Sunday night in Miami Beach, where crowds defied curfew for a second night
Mayor Gelber said the mass crowds (above on Sunday) 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
Large crowds gathered on Ocean Drive for a second night in a row on Sunday as cops struggled to enforce curfew
The festivities took an ugly turn as some of the men in the crowd jumped on a parked car and trashed it on Sunday
The trashed vehicle is seen in the aftermath as cops try to push Spring Breakers away from Ocean Drive
After days of partying, including several confrontations between police and large crowds, Miami Beach officials had enough and on Saturday ordered the first emergency curfew from 8pm til 6am.
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.
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.
An officer surveys the crowd ahead of Sunday’s 8pm curfew in Miami Beach after curfew was extended for three weeks
Cops were out in force on Sunday night but showed a softer hand after racism accusations from black leaders
Police wait for the 8pm curfew in Miami Beach on Sunday. In recent days, thousands of people have packed the city’s Art Deco Cultural District resulting in bedlam
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.
Police patrol Miami Beach Sunday afternoon, as spring breakers walk down Ocean Drive the scene of last night’s trouble
On Sunday morning roadblocks were seen on Ocean Drive as a state of emergency and curfew orders remain in effect to curb wild partying
Miami Beach was relatively empty on Sunday morning with only joggers and a few beach goers
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.