By David Ovalle
Hundreds of ATV and bike riders hit the roadways Monday, the annual “Wheels Up, Guns Down” ride meant to promote peace on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday — leading to a smattering of arrests, the seizure of dozens of vehicles, as well as a racially charged gun confrontation.
Miami police late Monday arrested a white man who used racial slurs and pulled a gun on black members of an activist group on bicycles in the Brickell area. Video of the incident began circulating Monday night, as the man was booked into jail on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon.
Across South Florida on Monday afternoon, TV news helicopter footage captured dirt bikes popping wheelies and the all-terrain vehicles, which are illegal to ride on roadways, zooming down streets in waves. At Miami Dade College’s North Campus, police officers interrupted a gathering of riders on Monday afternoon. Video posted by WSVN-7 showed a chaotic scene as riders scattered, some peeling away, others running away only to be tackled. Three vehicles were impounded.
By early evening, Miami-Dade police officers across the county had seized at least 33 ATVS and dirt bikes. At least 11 people were arrested — nine for felonies, two for misdemeanors — and three guns were seized, according to police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta.
Numbers of arrests and impounded vehicles have dropped in response to stricter enforcement in recent years. Last year, for example, Miami-Dade police impounded 65 vehicles and arrested 13 people on related charges on Martin Luther King Day.
In Broward County, deputies on Monday arrested 11 people, seized 13 ATVs or dirt bikes and found at least two firearms. Over the previous two days, BSO arrested 10 “violators” and seized 21 ATVS and dirt bikes, according to the agency’s Twitter account.
The day included several other episodes of drama.
Helicopter footage from WTVJ-NBC6 captured a dirt bike colliding with a car in Hallandale Beach on Monday.
In Brickell, members of the grassroots activist group known as the Dream Defenders said they were “assaulted” by a man with a gun. The members were participating in an offshoot effort known as “Bikes Up Guns Down,” protesting the potential displacement of residents at the Liberty Square housing community, which is slated for redevelopment.
A video clip posted on the group’s Twitter page shows a woman yelling at a black teen on a bicycle, accusing him of running over her foot. The woman appears to be white, but it is unclear if she is Hispanic. A white man in a T-shirt runs over, a pistol in hand. “Get out of here you piece of s–t,” the man yells, before twice hurling racial slurs at the teens.
Police late Monday arrested the man, Mark Bartlett, 51, on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon, according to jail records.
The video late Monday began to go viral. Miami City Commissioner Keon Hardemon, on his Instagram page, suggested that the man should face more serious charges.
“Assault with a deadly weapon and calling them n—-rs sounds like a hate crime to me,” he wrote. “Someone knows him and needs to identify him. He is not a hero. He will kill someone next time if he isn’t arrested.”