The thousands of people who have descended on Miami Beach for the annual carnival of heavy drinking, partying, and lust that is spring break are not generally that concerned with adhering to proper COVID-19 protocol — nor, thus far, a curfew imposed by the city.
Police have made more than 1,000 arrests over the past few days, as they square off with often-unruly crowds, who have gathered, largely maskless, in the streets and at bars and restaurants, with drunken melees a common feature of the landscape.
On Saturday, the city instituted a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the city’s entertainment district, which will stay in effect through April 12, from Thursday through Sunday. Restaurants in the area will no longer provide outdoor seating during those hours, among other measures.
On Saturday night, a largely peaceful crowd would not disband after the curfew went into effect, and cops attempting to break up the crowd made dozens more arrests as they dispersed pepper spray and deployed a military-style vehicle in the streets.
Some criticized the police for using heavy-handed tactics against the largely Black crowd, noting the racial dynamics at play. “It’s the same group of kids that are in South Padre Island right now, except those kids happen to be white,” said Stephen Hunter Johnson, chairman of Miami-Dade’s Black Affairs Advisory Board.
On Sunday night, the scene wasn’t as chaotic, but many revelers nonetheless disregarded the rules for a second night.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis probably isn’t helping Miami Beach’s cause, messaging-wise. The governor is taking what he considers a political victory lap on COVID; his laissez-faire approach on the virus (bars and restaurants have been open since the fall), which came in for heavy criticism last year, has resulted in a death rate perched merely in the middle of the pack for American states.
Miami-Dade County recently announced that it would continue giving out fines for violating COVID protocol, in defiance of the governor, who had ordered that they be canceled.