MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — Miami Beach was forced to extend a curfew and state of emergency after Miami Beach Police struggled to control large crowds of spring breakers last weekend.
As part of the state of emergency, the city will close streets in the 11 block entertainment district at 8 p.m. ET. Police checkpoints are also set up on the bridges into Miami Beach and license plate readers will track every vehicle. The curfew will be in place Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in Miami for the next two weeks.
Police say the crowds last weekend were chaotic, with fights, gunfire, property destruction and dangerous stampedes breaking out among huge crowds.
“Last weekend, city officials declared a state of emergency in Miami Beach, really at the peak out of spring break period,” said Ernesto Rodriguez with the Miami Beach Police.
Miami Beach Police said more than 1,000 people have been arrested this spring break season, with about 80 guns seized. They also say 50% of those arrested are out of towners.
Amicah Taulbert and her friend Elizabeth Reynolds flew into Miami Beach Thursday from Detroit.
“Stay away from the craziness, but still enjoy a nice vacation,” Taulbert said.
“It was a bunch of kids going crazy from being cooped up, just (being) irresponsible; it was crazy,” Reynolds said. “I was kind of worried but we had bought the tickets and still wanted to vacation, so like her, we just played it by ear.”
Last weekend police released pepper spray balls to disperse crowds. Several organizations, including the NAACP and the Miami-Dade County’s Black Affairs Advisory Committee, say SWAT tactics are being used because it’s a mostly African American crowd.
“When I saw the police shooting the pepper spray, it for me took me back to scenes of hoses being turned on Black people to get them off the street. It was the wrong message,” said Stephen Hunter, with the Miami-Dade Black Affairs Advisory Committee. “There were other ways to accomplish their goals, and I know that police force is capable of much better.”
Police insist their approach has nothing to do with race.
“Our message is simple, we police criminal behavior, not specific people,” Rodriguez said.