Miami Beach Police fired pepper balls at crowds of spring break revelers as the city declared a state of emergency.
“Too many are coming, really, without the intention of following the rules, and the result has been a level of chaos and disorder that is just something more than we can endure,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, a Democrat, told CNN on Sunday.
He declared a state of emergency and set an 8 p.m. ET curfew on Saturday. He said the throngs of people flocking to Miami Beach are more than officials can handle.
“Officers began dispersing crowds at 8 p.m. and ultimately achieved a satisfactory level of compliance,” police spokesperson Ernesto Rodriguez also told the network.
In describing the scene, Gelber said that it “feels like a rock concert” at night. There are “wall-to-wall” crowds of people “over blocks and blocks,” the mayor added. A gun was also fired into the air on Friday, he said, adding that there was a riot at the scene.
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“Other things have happened that are similarly challenging, and so it feels like a tinder, it feels like just any match could set it off,” Gelber said.
The state of emergency is in effect for 72 hours, officials said.
“As we hit the peak of the peak of spring break, we are quite simply overwhelmed,” City Manager Raul Aguila told reporters.
Aguila told the Miami Herald that he recommends keeping the state of emergency in effect until April 12, which is the end of spring break for many.
“This was not an easy decision to make,” he told reporters. “We are doing that to protect the public health and safety.”
Last week, officials arrested more than 150 people due to a variety of charges. More than a dozen firearms were recovered.
“We’ve done everything we can to try and mitigate the behavior that we are seeing, but quite frankly, I am concerned that the behavior is getting to be a little bit more for us to be able to handle,” Miami Beach Police Chief Rick Clements said in a briefing Saturday.
Some businesses have opted to close for spring break. That includes the Clevelander in South Beach, announcing it would stop its food and beverage operations until Wednesday at the least.
“Recently, we have grown increasingly concerned with the safety of our dedicated employees and valued customers and the ability of the City to maintain a safe environment in the surrounding area,” the management team said.