Daily Mail Online: LONDON, England – A SWAT vehicle was filmed moving down Ocean Drive – a popular party street – and using an LRAD, also known as a sound cannon, to get people to disperse, video posted to Twitter shows.
The move to control the crowds followed weeks of wild partying in Miami Beach, which is no stranger to uncontrollable spring break throngs of young people.
But this year the volume is clearly higher than in previous years, said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, who’s expressed concern about the lack of coronavirus restrictions – like wearing a mask – in Florida.
‘I think it is in part due to the fact that there are very few places open elsewhere in the country, or they’re too cold, or they’re not open and they’re too cold,’ he said.
The crowds of young people crushing the beach city have sparked worries of a coronavirus ‘super-spreader’ event, while alcohol-fueled partiers have been starting fights in restaurants and in the streets, officials said.
Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements said he is concerned the situation will become unmanageable.
Police then moved in to enforce the 8 pm curfew, telling people to get off the streets and go home as crowds swelled
On Saturday night, crowds were seen stampeding away from the scene screaming, while the man taking the video suggests that cops ‘may be spraying pepper balls as they did in the past.’
Other videos posted to Twitter showed massive groups of people partying on the streets after the curfew began.
In one video, a man was seen throwing money into the air as cops move in and cheers from the crowd are barely heard over the sound cannon. In another, a group of girls were seen twerking in front of a group of cops.
‘I hear cops coming from every direction, so I want to make sure they’re not going to swarm this corner,’ says Joel Franco, a man who has posted videos documenting Saturday night’s curfew.
A large crowd of people participate in a party on a street, during spring break in Miami Beach, Florida on Saturday
It was all fun until the cops moved in. People danced on cars, sat on cars and partied down before police dispersed crowds
Franco said in a live video that the crowd breaking appears to be a multi-agency effort, with helicopters from Miami-Dade police, a SWAT vehicle from Coral Gables and officers from other agencies.
In another video posted Twitter, a man wearing Joker makeup waves an American flag while standing on top of a car screaming ‘COVID is over baby’ and throwing money into the air.
Later in the night, Ocean Drive was seen nearly empty after cops made everyone disperse and photos posted by Miami Beach police show street sweepers cleaning leftover debris.
Locals laughed off the security measures put into place on Saturday, Daily Beast reported.
Earlier in the day and throughout the week, young people have swarmed the beach and the rest of the city of Miami Beach. A group of women dance on the beach during spring break parties in Miami Beach, Florida on Saturday despite a curfew order
A large crowd of people participate in a party on a walkway near the beach, during spring break in Miami Beach on Saturday
As crowds grew larger, police called a Saturday night curfew in an effort to keep things under control, they said
By nightfall, the party had moved to the streets of Miami Beach – with huge crowds of maskless revelers ahead of curfew
‘Honestly, closing down Miami Beach means nothing. People are just going to flock to Brickle and Wynwood. People just need to go,’ a 32-year-old Miami resident told the outlet.
For the next 72 hours, visitors will have to leave streets and restaurants will close their doors at 8pm in the main tourist areas of South Beach, the epicenter of the city’s party scene, authorities announced.
Their doors cannot open again until 6am each morning, authorities said.
The three bridges that connect the island with mainland Miami will be closed to traffic from 10pm. Only residents, workers and hotel guests will have access.
It’s unclear how long the curfew will remain in effect, but Interim City Manager Raul Aguila told the Miami Herald that he recommends keeping the rules in place through at least April 12.
A countywide midnight curfew was already in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘This is all about the public safety folks,’ said acting City Manager Raul Aguila.
Referring to photos of huge crowds gathering on the main Ocean Drive strip, he added: ‘It looked like a rock concert. You couldn’t see pavement and you couldn’t see grass.’
‘These crowds are in the thousands,’ Aguila said. ‘We´re at capacity.’
Over the last several days viral videos have emerged showing fights in restaurants which caused serious damage in addition to prompting diners to flee without paying expensive bills, according to local press reports.
On Thursday, a fight that started at a restaurant on Ocean Drive ended with multiple arrests after police fired pepper balls into the crowd, Daily Beast reported.
On Thursday night ‘we had an issue where hundreds of people ran at one particular time. Tables and chairs were thrown and used as weapons,’ said Clements, the police chief.
He added that police had hoped it was a one-time event but ‘last night we had three of those situations and we had a young lady that got hurt as a result of trying to run away from a crowd.’
‘We can’t continue to be fortunate. We have to do some things that are going to mitigate those circumstances,’ he said.
The curfew comes as a prominent bar, the Clevelander South Beach, announced it was temporarily suspending all food and beverage operations until at least next Wednesday after crowds crammed Ocean Drive, breaking out into street fights.