Hundreds arrested in Miami Beach as spring breakers ignore COVID-19 protocols, mayor says

Author: Sophie Lewis / CBS News
Police dispersing a crowd at Miami Beach. Credit: Kevin Green via CBS Miami

The mayor of Miami Beach said hundreds of people were arrested and at least two police officers were injured this weekend as thousands of spring breakers flocked to the popular South Florida destination — ignoring COVID-19 safety protocols.

On Friday, the Miami Beach Police Department tweeted that officers were forced to use pepper balls to disperse a “very large” disorderly crowd as it took a subject into custody. Two officers were taken to the hospital for minor injuries following the incident and released Saturday morning.

“What happened was a large crowd gathered at some point in time there were people that went ahead and walked into the crowd started throwing up money into the air causing a larger crowd to gather,” Miami Beach Police Chief Rick Clements told CBS Miami.

 On Saturday night, 30 more people were arrested in South Beach, police said.

“We’ve got too many people coming, we’ve got too many people acting out and we have COVID at the same time, so it’s a triple threat,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told CBS Miami. “If you’re coming here to disrupt then it’s not worth the money to us. It’s not worth the revenue. You cannot pay our community to endure the kind of inappropriate and improper conduct that we’ve been seeing.”

“If you’re coming here because you think anything goes, you’re going to have a terrible time. We’re going to arrest you. We’ve made hundreds and hundreds of arrests,” Gelber said.

On March 10, the city of Miami Beach extended its state of emergency declaration and emergency measures through March 17, which includes a midnight curfew. Florida does not have a statewide mask mandate and has lifted restrictions on restaurants and other businesses.

“I think what we see happening now is, there are not a lot of other destinations that are open, or they’re cold, and the plane fares are very, very cheap…so we’re getting a whole lot of people coming here,” Gelber told CBSN last week, adding that the city is doing everything it can to promote safety protocols, despite Governor Ron DeSantis saying it could not fine people for not wearing masks. “It doesn’t look like enough of them seem to even know that there is a pandemic.”

The popular spring break destination has stepped up its police presence, banned open alcohol containers and set capacity limits on its beaches in an attempt to mitigate the crowds seen at last year’s holiday period.

Gelber said he wasn’t sure the city has been “particularly successful” at enforcing safety measures.

“There is no question that irresponsible activity creates hospitalizations and death,” he added, criticizing the governor’s mask policies.

Some colleges and universities have scaled back days off or canceling spring break altogether, as officials try to curb partying that could lead to a spike in COVID-19 infections. Florida faced similar issues during spring break last year, at the start of the pandemic, which led to major spikes in cases.

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