MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) – Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber addressed an incident captured on video that showed a police officer body-slamming a man before taking him into custody, as large spring break crowds continue to raise safety and health concerns.
Speaking with 7News on Saturday, Gelber said the heavy patrolling in parts of South Beach aims to ensure residents and visitors stay safe.
“We don’t want the altercations, we don’t want the arrests, but if we have to, we will, because we have to have some measure of control over our environment,” he said.
Regarding Friday night’s body slam by an officer, the mayor said the incident needs to be considered in a larger context.
“Listen, people were throwing rocks and bottles at police officers. That’s just outrageous. They’re jumping on police cars,” he said.
A stampede formed near Eighth Street and Ocean Drive after an officer deployed pepper spray.
At some point during the mass mayhem, an officer is seen lifting a man and throwing him onto a sidewalk.
Several people were detained, and two officers went to the hospital.
“I call our cops every time there’s an injury. I talked to two of them today who were injured last night,” said Gelber. “Our police are putting themselves in harm’s way right now.”
The injured officers are expected to be OK.
Friday’s tough takedown was just one of many wild moments on the beach.
Cellphone video showed girls dancing on police cruisers.
But crime and chaos are not the only thing Miami Beach is battling. Spring breakers are flocking to South Florida in the midst of a pending pandemic and new COVID-19 variants in the state.
“Well, you see, I got the mask on,” said a reveler.
“I was a bit hesitant about coming down here. I didn’t know what the protocols were going to be and what people were going to be following, but the ticket price was so cheap, I couldn’t refuse,” said tourist Tanisha Watkins.
Despite a rise in vaccinations and a decrease in COVID cases, experts said there’s still a looming threat.
“The New York variant, the Brazil variant, the South African variant,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida is the state with the highest number of variants.
Experts are concerned that spring break festivities will only add to the problem with not many people wearing masks.
“People who were previously infected may not have a strong enough protection from these new variants,” said Marty.
A curfew remains in place for Miami-Dade County during spring break. It runs from midnight to 6 a.m.
Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.
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