“Our city right now in this area has become a tinder,” Gelber said, “and we cannot have a policy of simply hoping that it’s not lit.”
The first night of the curfew saw large crowds lingering on Ocean Drive, according to footage captured by local reporters. As squad cars attempted to clear the road, some people danced and twerked on cars. One man tossed money into the crowd.
Pepper balls were shot at the revelers, briefly prompting a stampede, the Miami Herald reported. About an hour and a half after the curfew went into effect, the Miami Beach Police Department shared photographs showing an empty Ocean Drive.
The emergency order noted that Miami Beach has seen “an increasingly large number of visitors during the Spring Break period” in recent years. The city has long made efforts to crack down: In 2019, police in protective armor patrolled the beach as prison transport vehicles stood ready to carry away noncompliant visitors.
The coronavirus pandemic has added another layer to spring break concerns. Last year, Gelber expressed dismay at “the amount of young people that could care less that this thing was going on.”
Spring break visitors this year “continue to gather and socialize in extremely close proximity to one another without any facial coverings or regard for appropriate social distancing,” the declaration of the state of emergency says.
The mayor said there appeared to be more visitors than in years past, attributing the higher volume to cheap airfare prices and restrictions in other areas. Florida ended coronavirus restrictions before many others states.
“People tend to come to the place that is open,” Gelber said.
The emergency order is set to expire Tuesday unless city commissioners, who meet Sunday, vote to extend them. Interim city manager Raul Aguila told the Miami Herald that he recommends preserving the order until April 12, when spring break wraps up for the year.