Miami Beach officials struggled to enforce a new 8 p.m. curfew in the city’s South Beach entertainment district on Saturday. Videos on social media showed hundreds of people gathering outside after dark on Saturday and law enforcement agencies dispersing the crowd.
While trying to control the crowd and arrest an issue, Miami Beach police said they used pepper balls. Two officers were also injured and taken to a hospital, according to a department tweet. According to CNN, police arrested at least a dozen people.
The city of Miami Beach, concerned about the increased crowd on the streets of South Beach and the threat of a resurgent coronavirus, declared a state of emergency and on Saturday postponed its curfew to end the nightly spring break party it said was out of control.
Police officers said many people were drawn to the city for the spring break this year because, like the entire state, it has relatively few virus restrictions. Hotel rooms and flights have also been greatly reduced to make up for months of lost time.
“It looked like a rock concert,” said Raul J. Aguila, the interim city manager, in a hastily convened press conference Saturday afternoon after the crowds hit the streets on Friday. “You couldn’t see the pavement and you couldn’t see the grass.”
The emergency measures will be carried out for 72 hours until the city commission can meet to decide on a longer-term plan. The commission will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday at 3 p.m. to discuss curfews and closings. Miami-Dade County has a nationwide curfew at midnight.
Florida reopened months before the rest of the country, long before the recent wave of states like Texas lifted all or most of lockdown restrictions and mask mandates.
Miami-Dade County recently witnessed one of the country’s worst outbreaks, and more than 32,000 Floridians have died from the virus, an unthinkable price tag that heads of state seldom acknowledge. The state is also believed to have the highest concentration of B.1.1.7, the contagious and potentially more deadly variant of the virus first identified in the UK.
The new measures won’t require Miami Beach hotels to close, but guests are asked to stay on hotel grounds after the curfew and restaurants, bars, and sidewalk cafes are required to close by 8 p.m.
Miami Beach’s entertainment district includes iconic Ocean Drive and Collins Avenues, and Washington Avenue and Española Way from Fifth Street to 16th Street. Police have begun preventing non-city residents, hotel guests or employees working on South Beach from entering the city along the MacArthur, Venetian and Julia Tuttle Causeway from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. the next day to drive.