Pointing to more than 1,000 arrests in one of the top party spots in the United States, Miami Beach, Florida officials warned on Sunday that the unruly spring break crowd gathering by the thousands, fighting in the streets, destroying restaurant property and refusing to wear masks has become a serious threat to public safety.
During a last-minute meeting on Sunday, city officials voted to extend a highly unusual 8pm EDT [00:00 GMT] curfew for another week along famed South Beach, with the possibility of extending it well into April if needed and stressed this is not the typical spring break crowd. They said it is not college students, but adults looking to let loose in one of the few states fully open during the pandemic.
Law enforcement officers from at least four other agencies, along with SWAT teams, were added to help contain the raucous crowds, but it was not enough. After days of partying, including several confrontations with police, Miami Beach officials enacted a highly unorthodox curfew on Saturday from 8pm until 6am EDT [00:00-10:00 GMT], forcing restaurants to stop outdoor seating entirely during the three-day emergency period, and encouraging local businesses to voluntarily shut down.
More than half of the more than 1,000 arrests were from out of state, said City Manager Raul Aguila, adding many are coming “to engage in lawlessness and an ‘anything goes’ party attitude”. He also noted that the crowds were not eating at restaurants or patronising businesses generating badly needed tourism dollars, but merely congregating by the thousands in the street.
Local officials have struggled to enforce COVID-19 ordinances. Florida has no statewide mask rules, limits on capacity or other such restrictions, courtesy of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ pro-business stance.
“I think there are very few places that have been open as our state have been open,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic. The virus is still very present in our community. We have 1,000 infections a day on most days.”
Miami tourism officials say billions of dollars were lost when the pandemic first erupted last year, cancelling spring break and forcing beach closures across the Sunshine State. The city’s tourism arm just spent $5m on its biggest national advertising campaign in 20 years.