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Miami Beach Never Wanted Spring Break Partiers, Mayor Says. They Came Anyway and Brought Violence

5 minute read

Miami Beach never really wanted to host spring breakers, and shied away from advertising that would attract them, says Mayor Dan Gelber. But crowds of revelers have come anyway, and this year, the parties turned violent: two people were shot and killed near Ocean Drive this past weekend.

Now the city has imposed an emergency curfew to try to bring order back to Miami Beach and tamp down on the excessive partying, which Gelber says has becomeungovernable at times, and obviously even deadly.”

Three factors are fueling the unrest in Miami Beach, the mayor says: large crowds of people, including many from outside the city; copious amounts of alcohol, and possibly drugs; and the presence of guns. Following the shootings, Gelber says he hopes the city will finally be able to take measures to get the parties under control.

“I don’t think we need to be an all-night party town. We offer so much more,” Gelber says.

Gelber says he believes that the violence this year may be enough to impose restrictions on the sale of alcohol in the city during spring break season. Previous attempts to ban sales after 2 a.m. were blocked by lawsuits from a local nightclub and a hotel with a restaurant.

While there’s a financial incentive to keep the party going, he says, it can’t come at the expense of peace and order in the city of 83,000 people. While officials increased the police presence, positioning several officers almost every block it hasn’t been enough. “[If] literally steps away from a police officer, somebody is shot, you know, you’ve got a real problem,” Gelber says.

Here’s what you need to know about what’s happening in the popular beach getaway.

People walk down Ocean Drive during spring break in Miami Beach, Fla., on March 18, 2023.D.A. Varela—Miami Herald/Tribune News Service/Getty Images

Why was a state of emergency declared in Miami Beach?

Citing two deadly shootings, fights and other incidents involving police, officials implemented a state of emergency.

Two men were killed in two separate shootings by Ocean Drive, which is at the center of nightlight activity in the city. The first occurred on Friday night and the second in the early hours of Sunday, the Miami Beach Police said on Twitter. The shootings also injured two people. One victim was in critical condition on Friday night, while the victim of the second shooting was treated at the scene. In both cases, the shootings involved visitors to the city. In both cases arrests were made within minutes, authorities said.

On Sunday, city officials announced a curfew that was scheduled to begin at midnight and lasted until 6 a.m. today. It is expected to impose another curfew that will begin on Thursday and last through next Monday.

“In a sense, we’re policing a playground of other people,” Gelber says. “That said, we are obliged to keep everybody safe. And when we can’t do that, then we have to really take extraordinary measures, like a curfew.”

In the order, Alina Hudak, the city manager, explained that “There is reason to believe that there exists a continuing clear and present danger of general public disorder, widespread disobedience of the law, and substantial injury to persons or to property, all of which constitute an imminent threat to public peace or order, and to the general welfare of the City of Miami Beach.”

Hudak said that the “tremendous number of visitors” during the city’s busy period also led to “extreme traffic and congestion,” and had a severe impact on city services, including police, fire, and sanitation. Police officers had been working 12-to-14-hour shifts up to six days a week, she said. The sale of alcohol for people to drink outside of bars and nightclubs had also “fueled reckless and illegal behavior,” she said.

Crowds have also led to curfews during the past two March spring breaks seasons.

In 2021, officials declared a curfew after police arrested more than 1,000 people and seized about 80 guns. In 2022, the city declared a curfew 28 following two shootings that injured five people.

What are the rules of the curfew?

The City leadership declared a curfew along with a state of emergency following the shooting on Sunday, and announced plans to enact another curfew for Thursday through Monday.

A special coalition is scheduled to discuss forthcoming restrictions at 4 p.m. on Monday. The previous curfew, which lasted from midnight to 6 a.m. Monday morning, required businesses to close by 11:59 p.m. and banned the sale of alcohol for off-premises consumption after 6 p.m. “Businesses within the affected area shall close sufficiently in advance of the curfew in order to permit patrons to avoid violating the curfew,” a press release said.

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