Thousands of people flocked to Miami Beach in recent days for spring break, resulting in revelers fighting in the streets and destroying property, prompting the city to implement and then extend an emergency curfew, a prominent bar temporarily closing, and police struggling to contain the crowds.
Police have arrested more than 1,000 people and seized dozens of guns. Fights broke out on Thursday with some fleeing for their safety, and on Friday, one restaurant was “turned upside down,” Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements said, and its “chairs were used as weapons.” The chaos prompted officials to implement a curfew in South Beach’s entertainment district from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Saturday for 72 hours. The Miami Beach City Commission also voted to close the eastbound lanes of three causeways at 10 p.m.
But on Saturday many people ignored the curfew that had just been enacted. Police responded in bulletproof vests and released pepper spray balls to try to disperse the crowds. On Sunday, Miami Beach commissioners voted to extend the curfew and causeway closures until at least April 12.
Images and videos posted to social media showed densely packed crowds dancing and singing in the city’s streets. Some could be seen throwing money in the area and posing with police cars, while many were not wearing masks, despite a Miami Beach ordinance that requires face coverings in public.
The Clevelander South Beach, an iconic hotel and bar on Ocean Drive, said it would be suspending its food and beverage operations until March 24 over concerns about the safety of employees and customers and “the ability of the City to maintain a safe environment in the surrounding area,” according to a statement on its website.
Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has not implemented statewide mask rules, and for months, Florida has not had capacity restrictions on many businesses, including restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, while other states have. DeSantis has spoken proudly about the lack of restrictions relative to other major areas.
“If you look at South Florida right now, this place is booming,” DeSantis said in February. “Los Angeles isn’t booming. New York City isn’t booming.”
Local Florida officials have cited the state’s looser COVID-19 restrictions as part of what may have driven the crowds.
“I believe it’s a lot of pent-up demand from the pandemic and people wanting to get out,” David Richardson, a member of the Miami Beach City Commission, said on Sunday. “And our state has been publicly advertised as being open, so that’s contributing to the issue.”
In a CNN interview on Saturday, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber pleaded with those who are visiting the city to “go crazy” to go elsewhere.
“Right now if you’re coming here because you’ve been pent up and you want to let loose and you think anything goes, please don’t come here,” he said.
Here’s a look at photos and videos of the city in recent days:
Warning: This tweet and video contains explicit language.
Material from the Globe’s wire services was used in this report.