Miami Beach has been put under curfew and a state of emergency after police fired pepperballs to disperse the crowd of revelers who broke coronavirus safety guidelines over the weekend.
Outdoor restaurant seating has been suspended and the streets closed in parts of the city, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the US for the annual “spring break”.
Despite the curfew, hundreds of people flocked to the streets of Miami Beach late Saturday night, prompting police to take aggressive action to break up the crowd.
“Honestly, I’m concerned that behavior is getting better and better for us,” said Richard Clements, Miami Beach police chief, at a press conference on Saturday. “All we are focusing on now is public safety.”
The riots came as Florida overtook 2 million Covid-19 cases.
Raul Aguila, interim city manager of the popular Florida resort, issued the curfew after police expressed “significant concerns” about larger than expected crowds during the spring break, including intermittent street brawls and property destruction.
Police arrest a man while enforcing an 8 p.m. curfew imposed by local authorities on Miami Beach Reuters
The city ordered a 8:00 p.m. curfew in a designated “high-impact zone” of the busiest streets, including popular Ocean Drive, a number of bars, clubs and restaurants.
Ocean Drive was closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic, with the exception of residents, hotel guests, and employees of local businesses.
Police arrest a man as they enforce an 8 p.m. curfew imposed by local authorities in Miami Beach. © Reuters
All outdoor meals were suspended in the high impact zone while takeaway orders had to be suspended at midnight.
Bar and restaurant owners told local media they feared the new order could reverse the profits they made from the crowds during the spring break in order to recover from the pandemic.
Police blocked most of the traffic on three causeways linking Miami Beach with the rest of the Miami metropolitan area to keep new visitors out.
Aguila told the Miami Herald that he recommends maintaining emergency measures through April 12 or the end of the spring break.
The Miami Beach curfew came days after Florida governor Ron DeSantis suggested that the state further relax Covid-19 restrictions.
Florida’s Department of Health announced 5,105 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, bringing the total number of coronaviruses since the pandemic started to 2,004,362.
Another 64 deaths were recorded, resulting in 33,337 deaths. Among the deceased were 32,713 residents and 624 non-residents.