Voice of America – English
Florida’s famed South Beach is seeking a new image.
With more than 1,000 arrests and nearly 100 guns seized during this year’s spring break season, officials are thinking it may finally be time to cleanse the hip neighborhood of its law-breaking, party-all-night vibe.
The move comes after years of increasingly stringent measures — banning alcohol from beaches, canceling concerts and food festivals — have failed to stop the city from being overrun with out-of-control parties and anything-goes antics.
This weekend alone, spring breakers and pandemic-weary tourists drawn by Florida’s loose virus-control rules gathered by the thousands along famed Ocean Drive, at times breaking into street fights, destroying restaurant property and causing several dangerous stampedes. The situation got so out of hand that Miami Beach Police brought in SWAT teams and called in law enforcement officers from at least four other agencies. Ultimately, the city decided to order an emergency 8 p.m. curfew that will likely extend well into April after the spring break season is over.
Beachgoers play in the waves on Miami Beach, Florida’s famed South Beach, March 22, 2021.
“We definitely want people to come and have fun,” Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola said Monday. “It’s a nightlife city. We want people of all races, genders, sexual orientation. But we can’t tolerate people thinking they can come here and act out a scene from ‘Fast and the Furious,’ speeding down the streets and shooting guns in the air.”
Some tourists are angry about the curfew, which they say has put a damper on long-sought vacations for which they paid good money. Meanwhile, some officials say they should have enacted more stringent measures sooner — as was done in New Orleans before Mardi Gras last month — instead of reacting in the middle of the chaos.
But Arriola and other commissioners argued the city may need an entirely different approach.
They note that over the past few seasons, the city has been steadily upping the ante with new rules and regulations, such as banning scooter rentals after 7 p.m., restricting alcohol sales after 8 p.m., and cracking down on loud music — to no avail.
“Every year we come up with new restrictions and they have no impact, so at what point are we going to try something new?” asked Arriola, who suggested hosting more family-oriented and business-friendly events.
The pandemic provided the perfect storm for large crowds: an unseasonably cold winter, pent-up demand from being quarantined at home and the lure of a sunny climate with miles of sandy beaches in a state with few COVID-19 restrictions.
New Orleans, which attracts thousands of tourists every year for Mardi Gras, successfully avoided the mayhem that erupted in Miami. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, put a statewide mask mandate in place as well as occupancy limits on bars, restaurants and other businesses. Edwards also limited the hours in which alcohol could be sold in restaurants, closed iconic Bourbon Street to cars and pedestrians, and ordered bars closed completely for the final weekend of the season.
New Orleans Democratic Mayor LaToya Cantrell went even further by closing bars completely, even those allowed to operate as restaurants.
FILE – People walk along Ocean Drive during spring break festivities, amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Miami Beach, Florida, March 5, 2021.
Despite strong opposition from Republicans and business leaders, Edwards and Cantrell were determined not to repeat Mardi Gras 2020, which state officials later said contributed to New Orleans being an early Southern hot spot in the coronavirus pandemic.
“If people think they’re going to come to Louisiana, anywhere … and engage in the kind of activities they would have pre-pandemic, then they are mistaken and, quite frankly, they are not welcome here to do that,” Edwards said in a news conference ahead of Mardi Gras.
Miami Beach took less proactive measures under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has refused to implement a mask-wearing rule and has insisted on letting businesses stay open. Instead, city officials this year sent text messages that warned tourists to “Vacation Responsibly or Be Arrested” and spelled out a lengthy list of rules. The city also canceled all concerts and food festivals, trying to avoid large crowds, but that only left the throngs of people who showed up anyway to congregate aimlessly in impromptu street parties.
Some visitors were frustrated by the mixed messages after being lured to the state by a $5 million national tourism advertising campaign, the largest in 20 years.
Reg Mac, a paralegal from Orlando, spent $800 on his trip to Miami, which he said was a bust thanks to the 8 p.m. curfew. He’d been looking forward to letting loose — and had even set aside special outfits for the after-hours scene.
“I was expecting to go out to enjoy the nightlife,” said Mac, who instead returned to his hotel room to sleep.
Added Deaja Atwaters, who traveled from Harker Heights, Texas: “It’s unfortunate that you can’t do everything that we want to do, that we plan to do, but we’re going to make the best of it.”
Miami Beach officials said the crowd of partiers consisted mostly of adults from out of state, not college students. They said many of them didn’t even patronize restaurants and local businesses.
“Not all people that visit Miami Beach are bad and come to Miami Beach with the intent of breaking the law and disrupting our quality of life, but this is a different situation, and it calls for drastic measures,” said interim City Manager Raul Aguila, who enacted the emergency curfew.
Voice of America – English
A shooting at a Colorado supermarket killed multiple people Monday, including a police officer, and a suspect was in custody, authorities said.
Boulder police Cmdr. Kerry Yamaguchi said at a news conference that the suspect was being treated but didn’t give more details on the shooting or how many people were killed. Officers escorted a shirtless man with blood running down his leg out of the store in handcuffs, but authorities would not say if that was the suspect.
Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said authorities know how many people were killed and suggested they are not releasing the number because they need to notify families of the victims.
Yamaguchi said police were still investigating and didn’t have details on motive.
A man who had just left the store in Boulder, Dean Schiller, told The Associated Press that he heard gunshots and saw three people lying face down, two in the parking lot and one near the doorway. He said he “couldn’t tell if they were breathing.”
Video posted on YouTube showed one person on the floor inside the King Soopers store and two more outside on the ground, but the extent of their injuries wasn’t clear. What sounds like two gunshots are also heard at the beginning of the video.
One person was taken from the shooting scene to Foothills Hospital in Boulder, said Rich Sheehan, spokesman for Boulder Community Health, which operates the hospital. Sheehan said he could not provide additional details but did say that “we have been notified we will not be receiving any additional patients.”
Law enforcement vehicles and officers massed outside the store, including SWAT teams, and at least three helicopters landed on the roof. The city is home to the University of Colorado and is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of Denver.
Some windows at the front of the store were broken. At one point, authorities over a loudspeaker said the building was surrounded and that “you need to surrender.” They said to come out with hands up and unarmed.
Sarah Moonshadow told the Denver Post that two shots rang out just after she and her son, Nicolas Edwards, finished buying strawberries. She said she told her son to get down and then “we just ran.”
Once they got outside, she said they saw a body in the parking lot. Edwards said police were speeding into the lot and pulled up next to the body.
“I knew we couldn’t do anything for the guy,” he said. “We had to go.”
James Bentz told the Post that he was in the meat section when he heard what he thought was a misfire, then a series of pops.
“I was then at the front of a stampede,” he said.
Bentz said he jumped off a loading dock out back to escape and that younger people were helping older people off of it.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis tweeted a statement that his “heart is breaking as we watch this unspeakable event unfold in our Boulder community.” He called it “very much an active situation” and said the state was “making every public safety resource available to assist the Boulder County Sheriff’s Department as they work to secure the store.”
Boulder police had told people to shelter in place amid a report of an “armed, dangerous individual” about 3 miles (5 kilometers) away from the grocery store but later lifted it and police vehicles were seen leaving the residential area near downtown and the University of Colorado. They had said they were investigating if that report was related to the shooting at the supermarket but said at the evening news conference that it wasn’t related.
The FBI said it’s helping in the investigation at the request of Boulder police.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that President Joe Biden had been briefed on the shooting.
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