Miami Beach Police Use Pepper Spray to Disperse 'Unruly' Spring Break Crowd Amid COVID-19 Concerns

Police used pepper spray and made dozens of arrests as crowds of spring breakers described by police as "unruly" and in violation of COVID-19 safety measures gathered in Miami Beach over the weekend.

According to the Washington Post, one of the most contentious incidents happened on Friday night on a packed Miami Beach roadway. As cops tried to clear the crowds, a teenager allegedly refused to budge and pushed an officer.

James Harrison, 19, was arrested on charges of battery on a police officer, resisting an officer with violence, inciting a riot and disorderly conduct. He has not yet entered a plea and has been released on bond. Court records do not reflect an attorney authorized to speak on his behalf.

Hundreds of bystanders gathered around the scene, many of them not wearing masks. Officers responded by firing pepper spray projectiles into the throng of people in the hopes of dispersing the crowd. At least two police officers were taken to the hospital.

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According to a police report obtained by ABC News, officers fired the pepper spray balls "due to the large, aggressive, unruly crowd and the immediate posing threats to officer safety."

Police said Harrison — who they allege kicked and squirmed to avoid being placed in handcuffs — was partially responsible for agitating the crowd. "It should be noted that defendant Harrison's actions made the crowd extremely aggressive towards officers, posing a clear threat to their safety, due to the large number of unruly subjects present," the police report alleges.

From Friday to Sunday, police officers faced off with large crowds of spring breakers who allegedly disregarded local COVID-19 safety measures. A spokesperson for the city tells CNN that more than 100 people were arrested over the weekend.

WPLG-TV reports that crowds threw bottles and rocks at officers. Other people were arrested for fighting, drunken disorderly behavior or dancing on police cars.

"We are dealing with the behavior," Chief of Police Richard Clements tells the station. "All we want to do is for people who want to come down here to have a good time, enjoy themselves, but obey the rules."

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber implored visitors to follow the rules and local ordinances: "If you are coming here because you think anything goes, you're going to have a terrible time, he tells WPLG-TV. "We are going to arrest you."

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