Miami Beach officials on Sunday said the city would extend curfews and closures through April 12 after a SWAT team was called in Saturday night to break up a rowdy crowd of spring breakers that had defied an 8 p.m. curfew.
Officers in bulletproof vests dispersed pepper spray balls Saturday to break up groups that descended on sunny South Beach by the thousands, trashing restaurants and flooding the streets without masks or social distancing despite COVID restrictions.
After days of partying – including several confrontations between police and large crowds – Miami Beach officials ordered an emergency curfew from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m., forcing restaurants to stop outdoor seating entirely during the three-day emergency period, and encouraging local businesses to voluntarily shut down.
On Saturday, a military-style vehicle was seen rolling down the palm-tree-lined Ocean Drive on social media as outnumbered Miami Beach police officers struggled to disperse the raucous crowds. Tourists were urged to stay inside their hotels and pedestrians or vehicles were not allowed to enter the restricted area after 8 p.m.
Despite the curfew, Ocean Avenue, the city’s main strip, remained jam-packed with revelers well past the 8 p.m. deadline. A SWAT team was on the perimeter by they reportedly left the area around 8:45 p.m.
Paul Acosta, assistant chief of police at the Miami Beach Police Department, said the main part of Ocean Avenue was clear of crowds shortly after 9 p.m.
Miami Beach police enforced the curfew by blockading Ocean Drive, Washington Avenue, and Collins Avenue from to 16th streets, Miami’s WSVN 7 reported.
Eastbound traffic on the city’s three main causeways – the MacArthur, Julia Tuttle, and Venetian – were shut down at 10 p.m. and stayed closed until 5 a.m. to people who were not residents, hotel guests, or people going to work, according to the station.
Miami Beach’s commissioners were holding an emergency meeting Sunday to determine whether to extend the 8 p.m. curfew.
City Manager Raul Aguila, who declared a state of emergency, told The Miami Herald Saturday he would recommend keeping emergency measures in place through April 12, which is the Monday after the last weekend of spring break.
The emergency orders are set to expire Tuesday unless city commissioners decide to extend them.
Miami Beach police said Sunday afternoon they have made more than 50 arrests and confiscated at least eight firarms since Friday.
Fox News has reached out to Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and City Commissioner Michael Gongora with a request for comment but did not hear back before publication.
Fox News’ Paul Best and The Associated Press contributed to this report.