‘This is really next level.’ Heavy police presence subdues the spring break party
South Beach crowds were sparse on Friday night amid a heavy police presence after two fatal shootings last weekend that sparked a temporary curfew and led Miami Beach officials to declare a state of emergency that banned nightly alcohol sales.
Clusters of Miami-Dade police sat guard along Ocean Drive, and 5th Street was aglow with lights from at least 20 state trooper cruisers, who set up a checkpoint near the Meridian Ave intersection.
Late Friday afternoon, Gov. Ron DeSantis deployed over 60 Florida Highway Patrol troopers to walk the streets and prevent “violent, illegal and unruly behavior” in Miami Beach.
South Beach was flooded with police. Here’s what spring break looked like Friday night
“This is really next level,” said Miami Beach resident Glenn Protus, who was watching the state trooper checkpoint from the sidewalk.
As of 10 p.m., police made at least one arrest at the checkpoint.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the Herald hundreds of officers from various agencies in Miami-Dade were continuing to monitor and police spring break in the city.
Security personnel from the private security company FPI were also present. The company’s owner Alex Perez said they are contracted by the city, and that there are 37 security personnel who are assisting with barricades and traffic control.
The Miami Beach City Commission voted not to reimpose a midnight curfew on Monday. However, an emergency order is still in effect that bans all alcohol sales after 6 p.m. from liquor stores and other locations that sell drinks for off-premise consumption south of 23rd Street through Sunday.
The owner of South Beach Liquor off of Ocean Drive, who declined to share his name, said he was less concerned about the ban affecting his bottom line, and more frustrated with city officials for their response to a weekend that is historically tumultuous.
“They’re closing, they’re making commotion, they’re sucking the vibe out of the city, for what?” the store owner said. “Every time for the past 10 years they act surprised: ‘There was a shooting in Miami Beach!’ 10 years you have this s***, so why are you surprised right now? It’s upsetting. This weekend should be giving Miami Beach a boost.”
Spring breakers worried, but feel safe
Visitors from as far as Los Angeles and Italy were aware of the shootings. Most said they are acting with more vigilance, but that it hasn’t affected their plans.
“It was insane,” said 25-year-old Salvatore Russo, who arrived from Italy the day after the shooting.
Russo said he comes to Miami every year during spring break, but that he’s never seen it as chaotic, describing the 2023 scene as “much more youngsters drunk as f*** and going wild.”
Still, Russo said he “definitely” plans to return next year. His friend Antonio Riccio, who is visiting from Milan, Italy, attended the Afterlife party at Miami Music Week, which he said was the “best party ever.”
A bachelorette party visiting from Los Angeles that was celebrating on Ocean Drive was relieved to learn the previous curfew had been lifted, although they were surprised when they found out about the 6 p.m. alcohol sales ban.
“We’re worried about the restrictions,” said 26-year-old Linda Gonzalez, a bridesmaid. “With everything that’s happening, it raises a bit of concern. But we’ll be aware. Just always stay alert.”
Bride Harlyn Larios, 29, said she feels safe to party despite the violence last weekend.
“As long as we’re not that drunk,” Larios said.
Here is what the scene in South Beach looked like Friday afternoon: