Spring Break in South Florida has been a right of passage for many college students. But this year, the experience may be quite different for those students who landed on South Beach on Friday afternoon in Miami. They arrived three days after city officials declared that they wanted to crack down on misbehavior and make spring break “a lot less fun.”
Students encountered more than a dozen police cars and all-terrain vehicles. The officers roamed the beach off Eighth Street with their lights flashing. Portable police towers kept watch over hundreds of sunbathers.
On one of the old lifeguard towers, a police officer DJ’ed and played a Bob Marley song set to a techno beat. Over the heads of the massive crowd a students was a police surveillance blimp that floated in a cloudless blue sky. Police tents covered the entrances to the beach and a prisoner transport van was parked on the sand.
The students were lying on an array of towels with little space in between them. They took selfies and soaked up the sun. Some drank from red plastic cups and beer cans. Others waded into the calm water. Police officers rode along the water’s edge on all-terrain vehicles, scanning the crowd. The only music came from the lifeguard tower-turned-DJ booth.
“There’s always been a police presence, but now it feels like they have the green light to just hound you,” said Whisly Laurent, 29, who was laying in the sun with his friends. Laurent, an Orlando resident who has come to Miami Beach every year for the past four years to reunite with his college friends, said police had seized the group’s $150 speaker the day before with little explanation. “They just said we’re not allowed to have speakers on the beach,” Laurent said.
So the Spring Breakers are apparently just left with the officer and his Marley music.