Authorities in Miami Beach are facing allegations of racism after extending an 8pm curfew and state of emergency in response to largely black crowds of spring break revelers, who officials say are ‘overwhelming’ the city with unruly behavior.
Miami Beach police have arrested more than 1,000 people in the past month, and faced criticism after using pepper balls and sounds cannons on the crowd on Saturday night, which black leaders called ‘unnecessary force’.
‘I was very disappointed,’ Stephen Hunter Johnson, chairman of Miami-Dade’s Black Affairs Advisory Committee, told the Miami Herald. ‘I think when they’re young black people [on South Beach], the response is, ‘Oh my God, we have to do something.’
City officials say they are concerned about the potential for the large crowds to drive the spread of coronavirus, and cite lawless behavior and rampant property destruction as additional reasons to impose the curfew, which on Sunday was extended up to three weeks.
Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements told Herald his officers only fired tear gas on Saturday 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.
On Sunday night, huge crowds of thousands once again defied curfew to party in the streets of Miami Beach, but police were noticeably more hands off following the racism allegations, gently encouraging the spring breakers to leave the area.
Defiant crowds lingered on the streets long after curfew, throwing cash in the air and jumping on cars as they taunted police ordering them to disperse.
Huge crowds again defied curfew in Miami Beach on Sunday night, after frustrated city leaders extended a state of emergency saying the wild crowds on the streets pose a risk of escalating the coronavirus pandemic
Thousands of Spring Breakers have arrived in the South Florida area for the annual spring break ritual, prompting city officials to impose an 8pm to 6am curfew as the coronavirus pandemic continues
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
City Manager Raul Aguila noted that the crowds weren’t eating at restaurants or patronizing businesses generating badly needed tourism dollars, but merely congregating by the thousands in the street
Authorities in Miami Beach are facing allegations of racism after extending an 8pm curfew and state of emergency in response to largely black crowds of spring break revelers. Above, crowds are seen on Sunday night
At an emergency city commission meeting on Sunday, the city’s manager said the crush of spring breakers was ‘overwhelming’ the city and the measures were needed to quell ‘the potential for violence, disruption and damage to property.’
‘These aren’t your typical spring breakers,’ Interim City Manager Raul Aguila said, according to the Miami Herald.
The police arrested more than 50 people on Saturday night after calling for the curfew; at least eight firearms were confiscated.
To enforce the curfew, police have erected road blocks on major bridges leading to Miami Beach from the mainland, infuriating residents who say it took them up to four hours to return home on Saturday night.
City officials have said the massive and unruly crowds might not be college students – and instead could be adults heading to Florida, one of the states that has fully opened amid others still clamped down with coronavirus restrictions.
In recent weeks, South Beach saw brawls, crowd stampedes and police confrontations involving the use of pepper balls. Miami Beach police have made over 1,000 arrests since February and at least five officers have been hurt on the job, the department said.
This weekend, thousands of people have packed the city’s Art Deco Cultural District resulting in bedlam and lawlessness.
Restaurants have reported that many patrons are ‘dining and dashing’ without paying their checks, and an outside patio at one eatery was severely damaged.
Some businesses have decided to shut down temporarily. The Clevelander on Friday shut down food and bottle service for five days after a fight broke out at the venue.
City officials have said the massive and unruly crowds might not be college students – and instead could be adults heading to Florida, one of the states that has fully opened amid others still clamped down
On Sunday night, huge crowds of thousands once again defied curfew to party in the streets of Miami Beach, but police were noticeably more hands off following the racism allegations
A Miami Beach police officer informs people on an 8pm curfew on Sunday as officials try to control wild Spring Break crowds
A Spring Breaker twerks next to a police car after curfew on Sunday night. Cops in Miami Beach were more hands off on Sunday, following allegations that their crowd control efforts the day prior were racially motivated
A woman flaunts her freedom as spring breakers look on during the second night of curfew in Miami Beach on Sunday
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, as many of the revelers pictured in Miami Beach over the weekend have been black.
An email and phone call to Miami Beach Police was not immediately returned Sunday.
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.
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
Cops order Spring Breakers to disperse on Sunday in Miami Beach. More than half of the more than 1,000 arrests were from out of state, said Aguila, adding many are coming ‘to engage in lawlessness and an anything goes party attitude’
Police try to control the crowds after an 8pm curfew goes into effect in Miami Beach on Sunday night
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 sometimes in lawlessness
Cops responded Sunday with a heavy presence but softer tactics than the night before, slowly pushing the crowd west
Miami Beach has drawn many black revelers, and black church leaders have accused the police of using ‘unnecessary force’ to break up the crowds
More than half of the more than 1,000 arrests were from out of state, said Aguila, adding many are coming ‘to engage in lawlessness and an anything goes party attitude.’
He also noted that the crowds weren’t eating at restaurants or patronizing businesses generating badly needed tourism dollars, but merely congregating by the thousands in the street.
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.
Miami Beach police officers direct people away from the area as an 8pm curfew is in place on Sunday in Miami Beach
Women in revealing outfits are seen on Sunday night in Miami Beach, where crowds defied curfew for a second night
The police arrested more than 50 people on Saturday night after calling for the curfew; at least eight firearms were confiscated. Pictured, Spring Breakers resist calls to disperse on Sunday
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 on Saturday, Miami Beach Police tweeted pictures of empty streets.
‘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.