‘It’s fever-pitched’: Miami Beach to extend state of emergency after more than 1,000 arrested amid spring break

Miami Beach plans to extend a state of emergency for the entertainment district to control spring break crowds.

The extension, expected to be announced Tuesday, will authorize a curfew Thursday night through early Monday that will be eligible for extension every week  through April 13, Melissa Berthier, spokesperson for the city of Miami Beach, told USA TODAY. The state of emergency was declared Saturday.

“The City Commission has authorized the interim city manager to extend the declaration of a state of emergency in one-week increments through April 13, 2021,” the city said in a release Sunday, which included updates to the curfew rules.

Miami Beach Police said more than 1,000 people have been arrested this spring break season, and about 80 guns have been seized. Police Chief Richard Clements said the trouble intensified last Monday when an unusually large crowd blocked Ocean Drive “and basically had an impromptu street party.” By Thursday, fights were breaking out, setting off dangerous stampedes to safety.

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There is simply too much disorder for the Miami Beach Police Department to handle, Mayor Dan Gelber told USA TODAY on Saturday.

“The problem is there’s a few things happening simultaneously. There’s a confluence of challenging circumstances,” Gelber said. “We’ve got too many people and too many looking to act out while there’s a pandemic going on.

“I stay up at night and worry when I’m going to be getting a phone call about some event that’s happening. We see the videos, the photos of throngs of people, sometimes something happening that creates unrest.”

Interim City Manager Raul Aguila said many people from other states were coming in “to engage in lawlessness and an ‘anything goes’ party attitude.” He said most weren’t patronizing the businesses that badly need tourism dollars and instead were merely congregating by the thousands in the street.

The amended state of emergency is expected to be in effect on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights until April 13. It will limit traffic on three causeways leading to South Beach in an effort to keep all but residents, hotel guests and employees from driving onto the island. In addition, it imposes a curfew in the entertainment district of Miami Beach from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and closes sidewalk dining from 7 p.m. through 6 a.m. 

Tourists might be “a little disappointed,” Gelber told USA TODAY on Monday, but that’s not his main concern.

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to follow a public health and safety directive,” he said. “If we could have well-behaved tourists in the evening, it’d be great, but we haven’t had that. I don’t want the behavior we’re seeing, obviously.”

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