The Miami Beach Police Department says it arrested more than 50 people and seized at least eight firearms after a rowdy weekend of spring breakers defying a curfew.
The raucous weekend reached its peak on Saturday night when local authorities called in a SWAT team to contain the defiant crowds.
The numbers provided to Fox News came after city officials voted to extend an 8 p.m. curfew for at least through mid-April along famed South Beach.
City officials have stressed that the majority of those arrested are not the typical spring break crowd but adults looking to let loose in one of the few states fully open during the pandemic.
After days of partying, including several confrontations with police, Miami Beach officials enacted an 8 p.m. curfew through 6 a.m., forcing restaurants to stop outdoor seating entirely during the three-day emergency period, and encouraging local businesses to voluntarily shut down.
Officers employed pepper spray balls Saturday night as a defiant crowd refused to submit to the curfew that had only been enacted four hours earlier.
A military style vehicle was seen rolling down the palm-tree lined Ocean Drive as outnumbered Miami Beach police officers struggled to disperse the 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.
Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements initially became concerned Monday when the crowds seemed larger than normal on what is typically a quieter day. A group of vehicles blocked the street “and basically had an impromptu street party,” he said. By Thursday, the crowds were growing, fights were breaking out, setting off dangerous stampedes of people fleeing for safety.
“We couldn’t go on any longer,” Chief Clements said during Sunday’s meeting, defending the city’s curfew. “I think this was the right decision,”
By Friday night, police said the partying was out of control. One restaurant was “turned upside down” in the melee, “chairs were used as weapons,” and broken glass covered the floor.
Next door, the iconic bar, the Clevelander South Beach, announced it was temporarily suspending all food and beverage operations until at least March 24 after crowds crammed Ocean Drive, breaking out into street fights.
After gunshots were fired, a young woman cut her leg so badly in a stampede that she was transported to the hospital where they initially thought she had been shot, police said.
“How many more things are we going to allow to occur before we step in,” said Chief Clements.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said he has trouble sleeping at night, worried about the out-of-control parties.
“When hundreds of people are running through the streets panicked, you realize that’s not something that a police force can control,” he said during a commission meeting Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.