After spending over a year in quarantine, we should still be cautious when it comes to long-distance and nonessential travel. Over the spring break holiday, Miami had a large influx of people coming into the city. Tactics like an 8 p.m. curfew were announced to help deviate crowds from the area. Large crowds gathered predominantly in the South Beach area where eventually, they started to be turned away by local authorities. Unfortunately, when individuals gather in mass crowds like the ones in Miami, it only sets us back. However, that still does not give police departments any right to use unnecessary force when breaking up the crowds, especially when the crowds were predominantly composed of young Black people.
Likewise, the state had already lifted a majority of their COVID-19 restrictions deeming this level of force used by law enforcement unnecessary. Large-scale police attacks like the ones in Miami only serve to show the division in this country. State and local government officials should have anticipated the surge of people coming into Miami for spring break. And before escalating to using excessive force, they should have done a better job at preventing large groups from gathering in the first place.
The Miami police department could easily try and argue their case for the use of intense force on spring breakers. Breaking COVID-19 safety guidelines and holding mass gatherings directly endangers local communities. While the police department was only trying to maintain order, the execution of their plan only created more hostility between officers and civilians. Instead of working with local community leaders to help disperse the crowds in safer ways, the police officers relied heavily on the use of unnecessary force. Although the spring breakers should have anticipated pushback from local law enforcement, this does not justify the fact that other preventative measures could have been set in place to avoid any violence at all.
Police brutality has become a central topic of discussion throughout the country over the past year, but for many, this has been a lifelong issue. Anyone gathering in such large crowds during this pandemic should be properly held accountable. But earlier this year, when majority-white crowds started to gather at the state capital, the force used by law enforcement was little to none. When white people rally in enormous crowds and demand to take up space, they are never met with unnecessary violence from authorities. The disparity of police treatment between people of color, specifically Black people, and their white counterparts in this country is as clear as day. It’s important to acknowledge that this issue goes beyond just crowds breaking COVID-19 restrictions.
In the case of the spring breakers, unnecessary travel during this pandemic should be looked down upon. Over the past year, we have seen how the COVID-19 virus has disproportionately affected communities of color. And this should have been more than enough evidence to stay home and not participate in the spread of COVID-19. Individuals in these communities already face higher difficulties accessing COVID-19 testing and vaccination appointments. Unnecessary travel only puts them at a higher risk of spreading COVID-19 to members within their own communities. It’s vital that before anyone wants to travel they take the proper steps to ensure they aren’t going to put their communities at risk.
State officials in Florida recently lifted a majority of their COVID-19 safety restrictions. In addition to this, Gov. Ron DeSantis emphasized that Florida never even had a mask mandate. The state was quick to welcome tourists back, allowing places like Disney World to continue normal operations. As a result, the state’s policies have directly led to a surge of COVID-19 cases, especially among younger people. Over the past week, the state has averaged over 5,000 new cases per day. To prevent unnecessary mass gatherings, state officials need to enforce stricter COVID-19 safety guidelines.
When we start the process of reopening spaces too soon, we run the risk of deadly surges. The case of spring breakers down in Miami is a great example of how our government is not taking the proper steps to ensure everyone’s safety during this pandemic. It also shines a very important light on how marginalized communities continue to suffer at the hands of our police departments. The ways in which police officers have and continue to treat people of color in this country stems from a larger pool of systemic issues. This issue is just one of the many systemic ways in which oppressive tactics have been inflicted on these communities.