Police Fire Pepper Balls at Miami Spring Breakers

Lynne Sladky/AP

This is now the second spring break of the Coronavirus pandemic. Last March was trickier, as restrictions arose while many spring breakers were already out on trips. But this year, vacation destinations were ready to diffuse spring break crowds. You’d think that the year-long, painful pandemic would have been enough to deter large gatherings. But on Saturday night in the city of Miami Beach, Florida, police officers were called in to forcefully break up partying. And the footage is scary.

Videos by Rare

An Emergency Curfew in Miami

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Miami chose to flout the heavy restrictions that most of the country imposed. So it’s no surprise, really, that college students would flock to the already-wild spring break destination. The descent of maskless stampedes, though, proved too much — even for the willfully stubborn South Florida town. After a rowdy Friday night, an 8 p.m. curfew was announced by city officials on Saturday; the crackdown was swift. Once 8 p.m. rolled around on Saturday night, law enforcement arrived at the city’s famed entertainment district — in riot gear — to break up the seemingly unruly crowds. The cops used pepper spray, pepper balls, and other forceful tactics which were documented on social media.

The Aftermath of Saturday Night

Following the messy stand-off, Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements told local news, “Quite frankly, I am concerned that the behavior is getting more for us to be able to handle.” But after a tense year full of Coronavirus anxiety and reckonings over police brutality, the move by Miami Beach police is being criticized. After all, Florida Governor Ron Desantis has openly boasted that the state’s lack of Covid precautions. And as videos show, many of the spring breakers attacked by the police were black. Stephen Hunter Johnson, chairman of Miami-Dade’s Black Affairs Advisory Board decried the excessive force, saying, “It’s the same group of kids that are in [Texas’] South Padre Island right now, except those kids happen to be white.”

Operating under a state of emergency, the curfew in the entertainment district — which includes Ocean Drive — was extended. The Miami city manager has the power to continue extending the curfew week by week. What the rest of this tourist season will look like in Miami remains to be seen.

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