MIAMI (CBSMiami) – CBS4 spoke to Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber on Spring Break 2021. He was asked about the police response to crowds, the image Miami Beach is projecting to the world and whether he accepted responsibility for what was happening.
Here is what he had to say about the police show of force in controlling the crowds.
“I think we were dealing with and continue to deal with something that is obviously challenging. It is hard to really understand the argument when people are shown these videos of outrageous behavior with crowds that are so large that the ability to control them is just, you know, sort of unfathomable.”
“So, I think our police are doing a great job given the circumstances. When you have 25,000 people in this little area, and it is a small area, and people should realize it is really, you know, basically 10 blocks by four blocks.”
“The rest of the city is fine, even that area is fine during the day. What happens is about 25,000 people were showing up in this little area. Others in the city of 150,000 and when they all come to an area, that might be fine when you realize that some people are bringing guns, some people are there to brawl. Some people are stampeding, and all of a sudden you realize that it is a tinder and it really is something that you can’t allow to continue because, frankly, it is dangerous.”
“It is dangerous to residents. It is dangerous to them, honestly, and we have to stop it.”
Gelber is then asked, “You had a head’s up that the crowd was coming. Why didn’t the city organize or allow events in different areas of the beach to keep the crowds occupied, number one, and more spread out, number two?”
Gelber: “Well, people could say we should have programmed. We actually had planned on programming, and then this thing called the pandemic happened. I think the idea that the city should have created mass gathering events in the middle of the pandemic is a little bit — you know, it doesn’t make any sense for this moment. More than that, more than that, this is not spring break.”
“You know, juniors after — before finals, you know, blowing off steam. The people that are creating a problem are coming with guns, and they’re brawling in public. They’re not college kids blowing off steam. They are dangerous people.
“Over 100 guns have been picked up, many of them through our license plate readers which means there was an outstanding warrant for the person who was stopped. So, I guess my point is we’re perfectly willing to consider programming in other places, but the idea of setting up concerts in the middle of a pandemic makes no sense, and more than that… Are we going to be program fog for people who are bringing guns into our city? We have to make it very clear that is unacceptable, just absolutely unacceptable.”
“We are not accustomed to this and we can’t accept it. And even though it is constrained to a small area, we have to respond so that people are protected. It is the number one job of government.”
Gelber is then asked if he accepts any responsibility for the way this situation has turned out and the image that people, not just around the nation, but all over the world are seeing of Miami Beach.
“Listen, I don’t point fingers anywhere else. I’m fully capable of shouldering this and along with
my commissioners and our city. We are figuring out what to do. I have been calling for probably two to three years to an end to the entertainment district.”
“I think it is inconsistent with the city. The hard party is over. No reason we project to the world. We have 170 businesses that can sell drinks until 5 in the morning. There is no reason we have to project to the world, ‘if you want to party hard, come here.’ We don’t want that. We want the kind of experience that you have elsewhere in our city, and we’ve got to quit relying on this kind of entertainment because we should have an Art Deco cultural district, not an entertainment district.”
“I think people are going to start changing that right now. But I’m prepared as I think I have been for a few years, to continue this, to take on this challenge, and I think a lot of the residents are going to support it as well.”