Spring Break Gone South


Daniel Varela

Large crowds have gathered past the 8pm curfew in Miami for many nights

Delaney Coppola, Contributing Writer

With spring in sight and the world slowly reopening, thousands of people have flocked to Florida in search of sunshine and an escape from the past year. With this influx of travelers, the situation has quickly turned dangerous both in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the violence and confrontation the masses have spurned. 

Since February, and increasingly in the past few weeks, Miami Beach has welcomed tourists and travelers to its beaches, hotels, and restaurants. With a lack of tourism during the pandemic the past year, many workers and Floridians were looking forward to a safe reopening and the boost in business, economy, and jobs it could bring. Amid this excitement, however, the state has been criticized for prioritizing reopening over health and safety precautions. Floridian Governor Ron Desantis has even been accused of blocking local governments from enforcing important restrictions such as maximum capacity and closing times in bars and restaurants. As junior Deirdre O’Donnell reflects, “although it’s tempting as the weather gets warmer and more and more people are vaccinated to ignore, it’s important to remember social distancing protocols especially in tourist zones such as Miami or outbreaks may occur.” The ignorance and failure to adhere to a safe coronavirus reopening plan in Miami Beach puts everyone at risk, travelers and year-round citizens alike.

As the beaches and streets became overwhelmed with spring break crowds, however, the Miami Beach City Commission declared an 8 pm curfew from Thursday through Sunday in an attempt to control the huge amounts of people congregating. Announced on March 21st, the curfew was originally planned to span through March 30, but has now been extended into April. The curfew includes many of the entertainment options, restaurants, and bars that attracted tourists to the area. Junior Ellie Boles shares her sadness over the reemerging precautions in the reopening world reflecting, “I don’t know the specifics about the curfews in Miami, but as a teenager who longs to feel a sense of normalcy, it is disheartening to see the same enforced protections that were created a year ago have to be used once more.”

With Covid-19 still posing a major threat to public safety, many businesses welcomed the curfew as protection for their workers. Some businesses, including the well known Clevelander Hotel, opted to temporarily stop their food services altogether rather than risk the health of their workers or the safety of their restaurants. Although these restrictions were put in place out of concern for the safety of everyone in Miami Beach, the curfew and closings have angered many. 

In the wake of the curfew, the situation in Miami Beach has turned dangerous in another regard as violence and confrontations with the police have erupted on several nights. With loud, rambunctious, mask-less crowds gathering in the streets well past the 8pm curfew, law enforcement is reported to have “opened fire with pepper balls — a chemical irritant similar to paint balls — into the crowd, causing a stampede of people fleeing.”

As conflicts between the police and the Miami Beach crowds increases, many new debates have arisen over how the police have enforced the curfew and how the gatherings have been dealt with. With a large black community in Miami Beach, questions have also arisen as to whether the police action is based on behavior or racial prejudices. To further complicate matters, many arrests have been made during this vacation-fueled crisis, including 350 felony charges and 80 accounts of firearms.

The complicated nature of the situation reveals faults in the actions of everyone involved. While some of the crowds are made up of tourists looking for an escape or peaceful beachgoers, violence and illegal activity has also risen in the recent weeks. With the heightened tensions in Miami Beach, many people are looking to place blame which only further fuels confrontation and conflict.

The recent events in Miami serve as an important reminder to remain cautious and safe as we try to navigate the reopening of travel, businesses, and life as a whole. A return to normalcy is becoming an even more imaginable future as vaccines and re-openings act as a light at the end of the tunnel. However, with reopening comes responsibility and Miami Beach reminds us all that our progress can still be reversed.