Miami Beach declares state of emergency over uncontrollable crowds

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Miami Beach, Florida, city leaders voted Sunday to extend emergency restrictions because of out-of-control spring break crowds that local officials believe are made up of more than just typical college students.

Miami Beach police have used pepper balls to break up crowds of tourists several times since the start of spring break about six weeks ago.

There are "wall-to-wall" crowds of people "over blocks and blocks", the mayor added.

He said often when an officer makes an arrest, crowds of people will circle the police and challenge the detainment.

Miami Beach is no stranger to uncontrollable spring break crowds, but this year, with approximately 13 per cent of U.S. residents vaccinated, the atmosphere is particularly festive and the illusion that the pandemic is now under control is pervasive.

The decision, Aguila said, is necessary to protect residents and spring breakers alike.

The commission on Sunday agreed to grant Aguila the authority to extend the curfew and street closures for up to three more seven-day periods as needed, starting on Tuesday.

Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements, speaking to the Miami Herald specifically about the scenes Saturday night, said his officers fired the tear gas only as the crowd began to surge toward them.

"We've done everything we can to try and mitigate the behavior we're seeing", Clements said. Under Republican Governor Ron DeSantis´ pro-business stance, Florida has no statewide mask rules, limits on capacity or other such restrictions.

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The city has been in a state of emergency for a year due to COVID-19, Gelber said, noting that the "emergency powers" employed by Aguila to enact the state of emergency are in addition to the COVID-19-related state of emergency in Miami Beach.

But local officials have struggled to enforce the rules.

One commissioner asked whether a toll could be levied on non-residents to discourage visitors. Apart from the fistfight that occurred, the overwhelming and out-of-control spring breakers are the reason why officials of the city have pushed for the earlier curfew.

Police arrested at least a dozen people on Saturday after hundreds of mostly maskless tourists stayed out past the curfew, CNN reported.

Local officials and businesses have struggled to balance courting tourists to boost the economy while doing so safely amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Miami Beach police ramped up staffing on February 3 "to cover Super Bowl weekend, President's Day weekend, and then we rolled straight into Spring Break staffing", Ernesto Rodriguez, spokesman for Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD), said in a summary this week.

The city's tourism arm also just spent $5 million (A$6.4 million) on its biggest national advertising campaign in 20 years.

"People paid a lot of money to come all the way out here, just to not be able to do the activities they wanted to".

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