Miami Beach city commissioners agreed to extend an emergency curfew Tuesday, a day after it was announced by the city manager in response to violent spring break incidents that saw five people wounded in two separate shootings.
The commission voted unanimously during a special meeting to keep a midnight to 6 a.m. curfew in place for the city's South Beach area through at least Monday.
The state of emergency declared Monday by City Manager Alina Hudak would have started the curfew early Thursday after midnight and run through Saturday. Besides the curfew, the commission's Tuesday vote to give the city manager the power to stop liquor stores and other retailers from selling alcohol in the area.
Several commissioners acknowledged that the city might be sued by business owners, who normally make a lot of money in March, but they all agreed that keeping residents and visitors safe was the priority.
“You cannot balance public safety with revenue,” Mayor Dan Gelber said.
Thousands of college students and other young people gather annually in Miami Beach for spring break, and this is the second year in a row that officials for the South Florida city have declared a state of emergency in this famed partying spot.
The mayor said about 100 guns have been seized over the past four weeks, and several police officers have been injured while controlling the crowds.
“We can't endure this anymore. We just simply can't,” Gelber said. “This isn't your father or your mother's spring break. This is something wholly different.”
Gelber noted that the five people were shot over the weekend despite the city deploying 371 police officers.
Three people were wounded early Sunday on a street crowded with spring breakers in the city's South Beach neighborhood, police said. Two victims wounded at the scene were taken to a hospital, while doctors at another hospital reported a third person arrived there with a gunshot wound. All were expected to survive.
"We just simply cannot have people come to our city and have to worry about being shot," Gelber said. "That's not a way a city can operate."
Early Monday, officers were patrolling about a block from the Sunday morning shooting site when they heard gunshots, police said. The officers found two women with gunshot wounds. Police said their wounds weren't life-threatening.
At the urging of some residents, city officials have been working in recent years to crack down on unruly behavior in South Beach. But efforts to curb the excessive drinking and violence have raised complaints about racism, classism and business practices.
Joshua Wallack, chief operating officer of Mango’s Tropical Café, represents one of the Ocean Drive businesses that have pushed back against attempts by city officials to ban alcohol sales after 2 a.m. instead of 5 a.m. But Wallack said he understood the need for the emergency curfew.
“They're reacting to the conditions that are present and doing what's best for the city,” Wallack said.
Events like the Miami Beach Live concert series have helped control crowds this year, Wallack said. The problems seems to arise when large groups of people just hang around outside with nothing to do, he said. Wallack said he hopes the city can arrange for more events in the future.
More than 1,000 people were arrested last March, when the city imposed an 8 p.m. curfew. Authorities at the time sent military style vehicles to disperse predominantly Black crowds with rubber bullets, prompting criticism from Black activists.