South Beach confronts disastrous spring break, pandemic partygoers

Miami Beach curfew, increased police presence ignites racial tensions
Posted at 9:09 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 21:09:08-04

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Florida's famed South Beach is desperately seeking a new image.

Amid another out-of-control spring break, officials said it may be time to change the hip neighborhood's vibe as a law-breaking, party-all-night oasis.

An 8 p.m. curfew was enacted Saturday after street parties devolved into fights, stampedes and destruction of property.

Miami Beach police Chief Richard Clements described day after day of melees that had people fleeing for their lives before the city finally moved to shut things down.

South Beach spring break crowds, March 22, 201
People in a mostly maskless crowd walk down Ocean Drive in Miami Beach's famed South Beach, Monday, March 22, 2021. A party-ending curfew is in effect in Miami Beach, imposed after fights, gunfire, property destruction and dangerous stampedes broke out among huge crowds of people. The curfew could extend through the end of spring break.

Mayor Dan Gelber is waving off some criticism that the crowd was targeted because it has been mostly Black.

Daniella Pierre, president of the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP, told WPLG that the city's increased police presence and aggressive enforcement of curfew sends an unwelcoming message.

"What are you targeting? Is it crime or is it a culture?" she said.

Crowds pack Ocean Drive in Miami Beach after curfew

Some city officials said they should have taken more stringent measures earlier instead of reacting in the middle of the chaos.

Tourists, meanwhile, claim the curfew has put a huge damper on the vacations they had been looking forward to and for which they paid good money.

South Florida has been a spring break hot spot in one of the few states fully open during the coronavirus pandemic.

"It has certainly felt like our city has become a tinder over the last few weeks," Gelber said.