Despite any advice from the Beastie Boys to the contrary, some spring breakers in Miami Beach found themselves in the wrong sort of fight this weekend. That would be a fight with the police. The municipal government there under Mayor Dan Gelber continues to panic over the size of the crowds showing up in his city for the annual festivities and he’s been sending out the cops to break up any gatherings where there are too many people or music that’s too loud. (You’re to be forgiven if you’ve mistaken Gelber for your mother.) On Saturday, Hizzoner took matters to the next level, declaring an official state of emergency for Miami Beach, with even earlier curfews being put in place. (NBC News)
The city of Miami Beach on Saturday declared a state of emergency over spring break crowds that have descended on the popular South Florida destination.
According to a statement, city officials Saturday afternoon planned to announce “specific measures related to crowd control during the spring break period.”
On Thursday night, along the city’s famed Ocean Drive, police used pepper balls in an effort to break up a restaurant brawl, according to NBC South Florida.
The situation has already devolved to the point where the cops are using pepper balls to break up parties and fights in the streets. The Mayor announced that an 8 pm curfew will be in place for at least the next three weeks. The phrase “harshing your buzz” comes to mind.
The Mayor told CNN that his city “looked like a rock concert” and that the crowds were more than they could handle. The Police reportedly arrested more than a dozen people for curfew violations before achieving “a satisfactory level of compliance.” The causeway leading to the city from the Mainland will be closing at 9 pm nightly for non-local traffic.
While Mayor Gelber’s orders may seem like a significant overreaction, it’s worth keeping in mind how things wound up deteriorating in this fashion. Governor Ron DeSantis has already declared that Florida is open for business. That made for some big headlines around the country, with many media critics saying that it was too soon. But obviously, the primary message that a lot of people looking for spring break opportunities took away from the announcement was that it was time to hit the beach.
But what DeSantis failed to do, unlike Governor Abbott in Texas, for example, was put any provisions in place that would prevent local and municipal governments from further locking down and restricting businesses. He’s taken a few steps toward mitigation, such as remitting all fines levied on businesses for violating COVID restrictions and banning the imposition of any new fines. But he hasn’t blocked those lower levels of government from imposing other restrictions such as curfews and capacity limits.
This creates a patchwork of varying rules and restrictions that visitors may not be aware of until after their plane lands. No wonder some of the tourists are confused about the rules. Unfortunately, a “patchwork” may wind up being the best we can do in some places. Different areas have differing conditions and needs, particularly when measured by population density. Policies that work fine in the suburbs may not be practical in the center of a major city.
Still, the handling of the spring break crowds in Miami Beach strikes me as a bit draconian. The Mayor is worried about another COVID outbreak. I get it. But Florida is supposed to be on a path back toward normalcy. The whole state needs to be open for business, and the primary business of Miami Beach is tourism. A tourist destination without tourists is a ghost town. Unless Mayor Gelber wants to try to shut down all business activity in his city entirely, he’s going to need to find a way to deal with these spring breakers in a more amenable fashion. Declaring a formal state of emergency over some college students partying on the beach seems decidedly over-the-top.