Black leaders and activists are criticizing Miami Beach officials and police over the city’s response to large crowds of college students who have converged on the area for spring break, accusing authorities of aggressively breaking up large crowds of mostly African Americans.
Following what authorities described as violent crowds, Miami Beach officials enacted an 8 p.m. curfew over the weekend to curb the partying and unruly visitors. Police officers from nearby law enforcement agencies assisted in enforcing the curfew leading to tense and sometimes physical confrontations.
“I believe the city’s reaction is unfair,” Daniella Pierre, the Miami-Dade NAACP chapter president, told WTVJ, the NBC-owned station in Miami, “They only do it when it’s these type of events, spring break and urban beach weekend, when you have any other activities on Miami Beach, you don’t get pepper bullets shot at you.”
According to City Manager Raul Aguila, between Feb. 3 and Sunday there have been more than 1,000 arrests in the city and more than 80 firearms seized. Videos online show brawling in the street and people standing on top of vehicles.
“Over the past six weeks Miami Beach officers have made over 1,000 arrests and have taken more than 100 firearms off the street,” Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements told Fox News. “Our number one objective has been and will always be public safety. My officers police criminal behavior, not people.”
After stampedes and fights broke out, Miami Beach commissioners voted to empower the city manager to extend the curfew in the South Beach entertainment district until at least April 12. In addition, causeways into the city will be shut down this weekend, The Washington Post reported.
Ocean Drive — one of the major thoroughfares in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach — will also be closed to all traffic, including pedestrians. Only residents and employees of nearby businesses will be permitted.
All sidewalk restaurants and cafes will close at 7 p.m. Officials said they were left with no option in order to control the crowds that have become violent.
Miami Beach Commissioner David Richardson told the Post that accusations that Black visitors are being treated unfairly are unfounded.
“We are not passing ordinances or laws here based on demographics or skin color,” he said. “We are merely looking at the conduct of the people visiting the city. This has nothing to do with who is visiting — it has to deal with the sheer number of people visiting.”
Commissioner Ricky Arriola said: “We can’t ignore the violence that we are seeing.”
City leaders and officials did not respond to requests for comment from Fox News about the matter.
Some Black leaders agreed that concerns about unlawful behavior are warranted but criticized the police response, citing other events in the city that also draw unruly crowds.
“It’s like we have learned nothing since the death of George Floyd,” said Stephen Hunter Johnson, a Miami attorney. “Drinking, fighting on a beach and twerking on a car is not new in Miami Beach, and not new to spring break in general . . . But yet here we are, again, having to be concerned about how our town is treating Black visitors.”