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 while a rowdy crowd of spring breakers were defying an 8 p.m. curfew.
City commissioners unanimously voted on the move during an emergency meeting on Sunday. Interim City Manager Raul Aguila, who recommended extending the curfew, needed commission support to extend the curfew beyond Tuesday.
Aguila told The Miami Herald that the measure aims to "contain the overwhelming crowd of visitors and the potential for violence, disruption and damage to property."
"When hundreds of people are running through the streets panicked, you realize that's not something that a police force can control," Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said during Sunday's commission meeting.
The vote comes after law enforcement 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 Drive, the city’s main strip, remained jam-packed with revelers well past the 8 p.m. deadline. A SWAT team was on the perimeter but 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 Drive 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 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.