Miami Beach, Overwhelmed by Spring Break, Extends Emergency Curfew

One day after the spring break oasis of South Beach descended into chaos, with the police struggling to regulate overwhelming crowds and making scores of arrests, officers in Miami Beach selected Sunday to increase an emergency curfew for as much as three weeks.

The officers there went as far as to approve closing the famed Ocean Drive to all vehicular and pedestrian visitors from eight p.m. to six a.m. — the hours of the curfew — for 4 nights every week via April 12. Residents, resort visitors and workers of native companies are exempt from the closure.

The strip, frequented by celebrities and vacationers alike, was the scene of a much-criticized skirmish on Saturday night time between at-times unruly spring breakers who ignored social distancing and masking pointers, and law enforcement officials who used pepper balls to disperse a big crowd simply hours after the curfew had been launched.

The restrictions have been a surprising concession to town’s lack of ability to regulate unwieldy crowds of revelers that town and the state of Florida had aggressively courted amid the persevering with coronavirus pandemic.

“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,” David Richardson, a member of the Miami Beach City Commission, mentioned on Sunday.

In an emergency assembly, the fee permitted sustaining the eight p.m. to six a.m. curfew from Thursday via Sunday for 3 extra weeks, which is when spring break sometimes ends. Officials additionally stored in place bridge closures on the nights of the curfew alongside a number of causeways that join Miami Beach with the mainland.

The metropolis’s determination to ship police personnel in riot gear into the South Beach leisure district on Saturday, only some hours after the curfew was introduced, got here below heavy hearth, particularly from native Black leaders. They famous that most of the spring breakers who had been dispersed have been younger African-Americans.

“It’s the same group of kids that are in South Padre Island right now, except those kids happen to be white,” mentioned Stephen Hunter Johnson, chairman of Miami-Dade’s Black Affairs Advisory Board, referring to the favored spring break vacation spot in Texas.

Mr. Johnson mentioned town did a poor job of rolling out the curfew and imposing it.

“This entire economy thrives off vacation,” he mentioned. “But when you have kids that feel as if they are being over-policed or policed differently in an environment post-George Floyd, where we don’t shirk back from that but we confront it head-on, this leads to situations where the officers feel understandably like they’re being put in an unfair situation.”

The eight p.m. curfew on Saturday within the metropolis’s South Beach leisure district was initially put in place for 72 hours. On Sunday, metropolis officers voted unanimously to increase the emergency declaration till Monday, with town supervisor empowered to increase it once more.

Some blamed the unusually giant crowds on a spring break season supercharged by a pandemic that has restricted socializing. Mr. Richardson, town commissioner, mentioned what Miami Beach was dealing with “is far greater than spring break, and that’s why we are experiencing the large number of crowds that we are.”

Ricky Arriola, one other metropolis commissioner, mentioned on the assembly, “Shutting things down cannot be the way the city does business. It is embarrassing and it just shows we don’t know what we’re doing.”

Mr. Arriola additionally mentioned that as town is grappling with one vacation, it wants to begin planning for one more. “We got caught flat-footed this spring break and we’re going to walk right into the punch of Memorial Day weekend.”

Credit…Marco Bello/Reuters

Patricia Mazzei, Christina Morales and Reed Abelson contributed reporting.

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