Florida's Matt Gaetz Gives Spring Break Warning As Miami Beach Arrests Pass 1,000

Matt Gaetz, Representative for Florida's 1st congressional district, gave a staunch warning ahead of the spring break party season as more than 1,000 people were arrested in Miami Beach ahead of the event—about twice the amount that were arrested last year.

"If you want to come to our state and enjoy freedom, go to a restaurant, go to the beach, go fishing, get a little weird (not too weird...) Then as we say in the deep south, y'all come! But if you're coming to cause damage and harm, you'll be held accountable," he said on Fox News in an interview with Sean Hannity.

When asked by Hannity to elaborate on "getting a little weird," Gaetz said: "Maybe a bit of body paint here and there, maybe throw some beads but don't hurt anybody."

His warning comes as more than 1,000 people were arrested ahead of the event, many of them from outside of Florida. Miami Beach officials have implemented an 8 p.m. till 6 a.m. curfew and state of emergency until April 12 in response to the throngs of young people partying in the streets. The curfew is in place for four days a week, from Thursday to Sunday for three more weeks.

The chaos flared up on the South Beach strip on Saturday night, prompting police officers, many wearing riot gear, to use pepper balls. Miami Beach Police said on Sunday night that they had made over 50 arrests and confiscated eight firearms over the weekend.

Videos show revelers climbing on cars, fighting in the streets, stampedes, and police intimidation, prompting a crackdown in recent weeks. Besides the arrests since February, at least five officers were injured trying to contain the crowds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for beaches, which include suggestions for beachgoers to wear face coverings, avoid crowds and stay at least six feet away from people they don't live with.

But in Miami, the streets have often remained crowded with thousands of maskless people, and many not adhering to other COVID-19 rules.

"Too many are coming, really, without the intention of following the rules, and the result has been a level of chaos and disorder that is just something more than we can endure," Miami Beach mayor Dan Gelber told CNN on Monday.

The curfew affects South Beach's main strips of Ocean Drive, Washington Avenue, Collins Avenue and Española Way from 5th to 16th streets.

In the Fox interview, Gaetz also disclosed that he let his adopted son Nestor go on spring break in Florida COVID hotspot Panama City Beach in return for not being allowed to go to prom or have "a real graduation."

If you want to come to Florida and enjoy freedom, go to a restaurant, go to the beach, go fishing, get a little weird (not too weird...)

Then as we say in the deep south, y'all come!

But if you're coming to cause damage and harm, you'll be held accountable. pic.twitter.com/uYoJSUuy9K

— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) March 23, 2021

"My son is a college freshman. He had no real graduation, no prom, and I struggled with whether or not to allow him to enjoy spring break at Panama City beach," he said.

"I allowed him to have an abbreviated one," he added.

"I did not have a good night's rest the entire time he was there until I knew he was safe, OK, and back at school."

Gaetz listens to Donald Trump Jr.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) holds a phone to the microphone as Donald Trump Jr. speaks remotely to a crowd during a rally against Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) on January 28, 2021 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Gaetz gave a staunch warning ahead of the spring break party season as more than 1,000 people were arrested in Miami Beach ahead of the event—about twice the amount arrested last year. Michael Ciaglo/Getty