MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - The City of Miami Beach has begun enforcing an 8 p.m. curfew in South Beach’s entertainment district and blocking most eastbound traffic to the city, hours after officials issued a state of emergency declaration due to overwhelming spring break crowds.
Interim City Manager Raul Aguila announced the emergency measures alongside Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber at a press conference, Saturday afternoon.
“This covers Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, Washington Avenue, and Hispaniola Drive. What that means is, all restaurants and bars and other businesses must be closed no later than 8 p.m.,” said Aguila.
The crowds, which have been considerably larger than expected, prompted the city to issue a state of emergency declaration “in order to safeguard the public health, safety, and welfare of residents and visitors.”
Police are enforcing the curfew by blockading Ocean Drive, Washington Avenue and Collins Avenue from Fifth to 16th streets.
“Our city right now, in this area, has become a tinder, and we cannot have a policy of simply hoping that it’s not lit,” said Gelber.
This is what it looks like on #SouthBeach at 8:00pm, which is the time city leaders designated as the new curfew. So far, police have not intervened @wsvn #springbreak #miamibeach pic.twitter.com/7SvsoBZyl0
— Franklin White (@FranklinWSVN) March 21, 2021
But as 8 p.m. came, large crowds lingered along Ocean Drive. Police have not yet intervened.
An hour later, hundreds of revelers still packed the iconic street, many without masks. or any plans of leaving.
“I wanna be drunk, I wanna be lit. I can’t do none of that,” said a reveler.
Another visitor expressed frustration with the city’s measures.
“You spent all this money, you came here to be out on a vacation, and you’re losing all the way around on that part,” said a visitor.
— Miami Beach Police (@MiamiBeachPD) March 21, 2021
Just after 9:30 p.m., Miami Beach Police tweeted out aerial videos showing officers dispersing the crowds along a nearly empty Ocean Drive.
Officials said Ocean Drive will remain closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic, except to local residents, guests of hotels in the city, and employees of business establishments.
Some time after 10 p.m., 7News cameras showed a large convoy of police vehicles heading south on Collins Avenue, as cruisers blocked intersections.
The changes will only last for 72 hours, and at that point, city leaders will assess future changes. However, Aguila said he recommends keeping them in place until April 12, or the Monday after the last weekend of spring break.
A countywide curfew extending from midnight until 6 p.m. is already in effect due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Eastbound traffic on the three main causeways entering the city — the MacArthur, Julia Tuttle and Venetian causeways — was shut down at 10 p.m. and is scheduled to remain closed until 5 a.m. with the exception of residents, hotel guests and people heading into work.
Traffic cameras showed traffic on the MacArthur at a standstill near Jungle Island, just after 10 p.m.
The emergency measures come after weeks of violent incidents, much of it captured on cellphone video, including fights, stampedes, confrontations with police and even a deadly shooting.
“We have to act before one of those incidents happens. We cannot act in the wake of something,” said Gelber, “and that is why, preemptively, we are taking action today.”
City officials have also warned about the possible spread of COVID-19.
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