Miami Beach calls time as Spring Break party gets out of control
By Leila MACOR
Spring Break is a US holiday known for excessive partying, but in Miami Beach, one of the centers of festivities, residents have had enough.
Every March, the bar-lined ocean-front area fills up with students from across the country, drinking, partying and stripping down to the bare essentials.
The drunken revelry has reached such chaotic heights this year — with drunken brawls on the beachfront and a tourist falling to her death out of a car window — that the authorities have decided to call time on the wild festivities.
Riot police have begun patrolling the waterfront, with police vans parked nearby to detain party people who go too far.
The authorities have said they will no longer ignore people consuming alcohol or lighting up joints on the beach.
“We are here just to have fun,” said 18-year-old student Jack Rogers from Towson University in Maryland. “It’s spring break.”
“Obviously, people are getting a little out of hand,” he said, sitting on a seafront wall with friends.
As night falls, the crowds move towards Ocean Drive, the road running along the beachfront and filled with bars and restaurants offering happy hour discounts on monster-sized cocktails.
In the mornings, as the tropical heat rises, the streets reek of urine.
Partygoers have been filming their antics and sharing them on social media. One posted video of a driver serving drinks to another passing vehicle on a major causeway, while a separate clip shows people brawling in the street with a woman knocked out by a man who punches her in the face.
The clips shed some light on the atmosphere in which Mariah Michelle Logan, a tourist from Chicago, met her end around daybreak last Sunday.
The 23-year-old fell out the window of a speeding car on the road to the airport as she leaned out to yell, “Bye Miami!” She was then hit by another car and killed.
The tragedy, combined with images of stampedes and 20-year-olds drinking alcohol through plastic funnels, forced the authorities to come up with an emergency plan on Tuesday to establish order next week, the last stretch of the holiday.
“I think we need to eliminate this Spring Break phenomenon as soon as possible,” said John Elizabeth Aleman, city commissioner for Miami Beach.
“I think we need to make it a lot less fun to be here, unfortunately, for that type of tourism,” she said.
– ‘You will be arrested’ –
“You can’t stop people from having fun,” said Marta Ramirez, a 70-year-old resident of Miami Beach. “But they should try to show a little more respect. Let them dance and have fun, but with order.”
The police slogan for those heading to Miami for Spring Break this year was: “Come on vacation, don’t leave on probation.”
Clearly, the message has not got through, even though last November police chief Daniel Oates sent his own message to fraternities and sororities of colleges across the country: “If you come to Miami Beach for Spring Break, you must obey our laws. If you do not, you will be arrested.”
At the emergency council meeting there was even talk of imposing a curfew.
In the end, city commissioners decided not to go that far, but they did pledge special measures, including extra police and patrols on quad bikes confiscating alcohol on the beach.
Residential areas of the island will be closed off with barricades for the last weekend of the break season, and there will be license plate checks and plainclothes police officers mingling with the crowds.
“This is not a place where everything goes, and if that is their reason for coming here, they should go elsewhere,” said Mayor Dan Gelber.