(CNN) — Miami Beach cops used pepper spray against a crowd and arrested at least a dozen people Saturday night when the city took extraordinary measures to crack down on vacationers who authorities say are out of control.
The strong enforcement action came just hours after Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber declared a state of emergency and set a curfew from 8:00 p.m., saying crowds that have reached the city is “more than we can handle.”
Too many come, really, without the intention of following the rules and the result has been a level of chaos and disorder that is more than we can bear, “Gelber told CNN’s Ana Cabrera.”
On Saturday night hundreds of people, mostly without masks, remained on the streets long after the curfew time. With the sirens blasting, the police used pepper spray – a chemical irritant – against the crowd, causing a stampede of fleeing people, according to one report. video from CNN affiliate WPLG.
Miami Beach police said early Sunday they arrested at least a dozen people after the curfew began.
“Officers began to disperse the crowds at 8:00 pm and finally achieved a satisfactory level of compliance,” police spokesman Ernesto Rodríguez told CNN.
The 8:00 p.m. curfew and the closure of some roads in the city’s entertainment district will run through Tuesday, Gelber said at a news conference Saturday. The roads to Miami Beach from the mainland will be closed to non-resident traffic starting at 9:00 pm for the next few nights, Gelber said.
These actions occur when Florida opened its doors to tourists after a year of coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions across the country. Governor Ron DeSantis has boasted that the state is an “oasis of freedom” during the pandemic, with people flocking to beaches and nightlife free of state restrictions.
Gelber told CNN that the biggest problems with crowds have arisen at night.
“It feels like a rock concert, people crowded together for blocks and blocks,” Gelber said.
On Friday night, someone fired a gun into the air and there was a riot, he said.
“Other things have happened that are just as challenging,” said the mayor.
The situation has worsened every day, according to Gelber, and the pandemic “makes things even more difficult.”
A hotel concerned about safety
Miami Beach’s nightlife has never been for the faint of heart, but local officials and residents have noted the particular aggressiveness of revelers vacationing this spring during the ongoing pandemic.
The Clevelander South Beach, one of Miami Beach’s iconic hotels, announced Friday that it will temporarily suspend food and beverage operations due to safety concerns for its employees and customers.
“Recently, we have become increasingly concerned about the safety of our dedicated employees and valued customers and the City’s ability to maintain a safe surrounding environment,” the hotel reported with a message on your website and on social media.
“Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend food and beverage operations” until at least March 24, the hotel’s management said in its message.
The Clevelander said management “will reassess the situation in the coming days and decide whether to reopen or remain temporarily closed.” Employees “will receive their full salary” as long as the bar and dining areas are closed, the hotel said.
Miami Beach Police increased staffing on February 3 “to cover Super Bowl weekend, President’s Day weekend, and then we went straight to staffing for Spring Break,” he explained. Ernesto Rodríguez, a spokesman for the Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD), in a report this week.
1,000 arrests as infections continue
More than 1,000 people have been arrested in Miami Beach since Feb. 3 when spring break travelers arrived in the city, Miami Beach City Manager Raul Aguila said during an emergency commission meeting on Sunday. Of those arrests, more than 350 were felony arrests, he said.
Both Aguila and Gelber said the crowd at this spring break is not typical and they don’t think it is mostly students on the road.
“These are individuals who come to town … they mess up with an attitude of anything goes party,” said Aguila.
While the city has dealt with large crowds, Aguila said, things turned around Friday when thousands gathered on Ocean Drive. No special events were planned and none of the people frequented restaurants or establishments, he said.
“It looked like a rock concert, you couldn’t see the pavement, you couldn’t see the ground, all you could see were people crowded together,” he said.
Gelber noted that the city is an attractive destination for travelers due to its good weather and open businesses, but it is still facing the pandemic. 1,000 infections are reported daily and between 50 and 100 people are admitted to hospitals each day in Dade County, Gelber said.
They throw stones and bottles
Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements said at Sunday’s meeting that he believes the pandemic is a contributing factor, as people who have been locked up had fewer options for spring break and traveled to Miami Beach.
It indicated that 86 firearms have been seized since February 3.
“It was alarming,” Clements said.
Several nights, large crowds had stampeded around the entertainment district, Clements said.
In one case, several cars stopped and the occupants organized a street party and threw rocks and bottles at the police who tried to mobilize them, he said.
In another incident, he revealed that someone fired a gun into the air and sent more than 200 people running.
Another stampede started from a fight, turning the area into a brawl with glasses and chairs being used as weapons, Clements said.
“I’m really worried,” said the police chief. “How long can it take before something bad happens?”
‘If you think anything goes, please don’t come’
Last weekend, about 100 people were arrested and two officers were injured after clashes with crowds, police said. Additionally, Rodriguez told CNN on Saturday that at least two dozen arrests were made on Thursday and “at least a dozen on Friday.”
Miami-Dade police have been collaborating with the MBPD since Tuesday due to the crowds, Rodriguez reported.
Florida Highway Patrol agents also provided assistance with traffic control on the MacArthur and Julia Tuttle Causeways, bridges that connect the area to the mainland, MBPD said in a tweet on Friday.
Other agencies that help with security efforts include the Coral Gables Police Department and the Miami Dade Department of Corrections, according to Rodriguez.
“If you come here because you’ve been repressed and you want to let go, you think anything goes, don’t come here,” Gelber told CNN. “We have extra police everywhere, people will be arrested, and we have. We are going to keep order.
If you come here to go crazy, go somewhere else. We don’t love you, ”Gelber said.
CNN’s Eric Levenson, Andy Rose, and Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism