Witnesses: Police forced to fire pepper balls to break up fight outside Miami Beach restaurant

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Cellphone video captured people scrambling after police used pepper balls to break up a rowdy crowd in Miami Beach’s entertainment district.

The incident happened along the 800 block of Ocean Drive, Thursday night.

According to witnesses, the incident began with a fight outside of Kantina Restaurant, one of the sidewalk cafes that line Ocean Drive.

Witnesses said the fight escalated to the point that Miami Beach Police officers responded to defuse the situation, and they were forced to fire pepper balls to disperse the crowd. People scattered toward the east to Lummus Park as the projectiles were fired.

Another video showed police officers and Miami Beach Fire Rescue personnel working the area where the confrontation occurred.

7News has reached out to police for more information on the incident.

Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements announced a stepped-up effort by authorities during a media conference earlier in the week.

“What we’re dealing with now is behavior and making sure the behavior stays within reason,” Clements said. “We’re feeling the need to increase that presence in order to be able to deal with the challenges associated with dealing with large crowds.”

Parking garages in the entertainment district will close at 8 p.m. in an effort to keep the beach safe during spring break.

From February 15 to March 15, police said they have made over 900 arrests, a third of them felonies. Half of those arrested came from out-of-state. Officers have also seized 78 firearms in the process.

“A lot of these are just people coming to get away from the cold, from the lockdown and to let loose and party and that is what we are not tolerating,” said Miami Beach Interim City Manager Raul J. Aguila.

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