Heavy police presence expected as Miami prepares for its 23rd annual Ultra Music Festival

Miami Beach liquor stores to shut down starting at 6 p.m. from Thursday through this Sunday

MIAMI – Final preparations were underway at Bayfront Park as Miami’s 23rd annual Ultra Music Festival kicks off Friday night.

The annual electronic music fest is expected to attract more than 165,000 partiers.

Miami will have one of its busiest weeks of the year as the city prepares to host Ultra, the Miami Open and the ongoing surge in spring breakers taking over South Beach.

Sky 10 flew above the crowd earlier in the day, capturing images of festival-goers pouring in, on Day 1 of this three-day event.

With large crowds comes a heavy police presence.

“We’ll have plenty of officers on hand and that includes undercover officers inside,” Miami police Chief Manny Morales said.

But as Miami prepares to pump up the volume this weekend, the city of Miami Beach is trying to tamp down large crowds. It’s being taken to court over a liquor curfew.

It comes after two deadly shootings on South Beach last weekend, which led city commissioners to consider a curfew for everyone, as requested by the police chief and the city manager.

A police report obtained by Local 10 News says the shooter told police last Friday that he fired a weapon in self-defense, leaving one man shot and killing another.

Police officers arrested Dontavious Polk, 24, of Fort Lauderdale, for first-degree murder, after a fatal shooting shortly before 3:30 a.m., on Sunday on Ocean Drive at 11 Street.

24-year-old Dontavious Polk. (WPLG)

Police officers also arrested another suspect after a fatal shooting at 10:40 p.m., on Friday on Ocean Drive at Seventh Street. One person was injured.

City leaders said they will ramp up security, especially on of the busiest weekend of the year in Miami.

“When there are this many people here with liquor, with smoking pot and drugs, partying all night, and then you throw in guns, you get a real, very precarious scenario,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.

But that measure failed to pass, with those against it arguing that the crowds are typically not as rowdy on the days Ultra is being held across the bay.

Instead, Miami Beach commissioners passed a separate curfew, only applying to liquor stores.

It forces them to shut down starting at 6 p.m. from Thursday through this Sunday.

Gelber and other city leaders were also hoping to establish a weekend curfew to help police clear the streets at midnight, but a majority of commissioners voted it down, saying that it would hurt too many businesses.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine criticized the move.

“Unfortunately, we have a commission that’s so weak in the knees, that gets so influenced by campaign cash to their PACs,” he said.

Miami Beach resident Susan Whitebrook told Local 10 News that she is worried that the city’s reputation may be at risk.

“It’s sad because it’s a jewel (and) people come from all over the world. It’s a beautiful place and it’s sad to see it portrayed on the national news,” she said.

Miami Fire Rescue told Local 10 News that the department saw about 16 hospital transports a day last year.

“Considering that it was the first year back from the pandemic, last year was one of our safest years. There weren’t any major incidents, just minor incidents,” said Miami Fire Rescue Lt. Pete Sanchez.

On Friday. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis directed the Florida Highway Patrol to send a “surge” of more than 60 state troopers to patrol Miami Beach following a violent weekend that saw two people shot dead on South Beach, authorities said.

Miami Beach Police also told Local 10 News they will be assisting and operating DUI checkpoints.

About the Authors:

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.

Alex Finnie joined the Local 10 News team in May 2018. South Florida is home! She was raised in Miami and attended the Cushman School and New World School of the Arts for high school.