In Florida, 51-year-old Mark Allen Bartlett, has been arrested for carrying a concealed weapon illegally. The arrest occurred in Miami after Bartlett had an altercation with attendants of the “Bikes Up, Guns Down” event in Brickell on January 21st, Martin Luther King Day.
Though Bartlett has been charged already, prosecutors are pursuing more charges, as they investigate possible hate crime charges against Bartlett. His actions during the encounter have led prosecutors to believe he crossed the line.
According to prosecution reports, various videos were captured by a group of attendants during the confrontation. The group involved is a group of activists known as the Dream Defenders. In the videos, a woman is heard complaining to bicyclists that they are impeding street traffic and that a bike had run over her foot.
Further video shows Bartlett appearing on the scene carrying a handgun and calling out racial slurs and obscenities to the cyclists at the event. There were children and young adults in attendance.
Police were called and Bartlett was located later in the day and arrested around 6:30 that evening. He asked officers, “Why am I being arrested when those kids are free to ride around?” He told officers that while he did take out his gun, he never pointed the gun at anyone.
Members of the Dream Defenders found the charge against Bartlett laughable and nothing more than a mild reprimand. They took to social media to voice their outcry and chagrin.
Based on what she saw in the videos and from eyewitness testimony gathered, Florida State Attorney Katherine Rundle decided to order an investigation of the case by hate crime investigators. She offered a statement and said, “I am outraged at the reported acts depicted in the videos taken during this incident. I am committed to filing the appropriate charges and to vigorously prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.”
The cycling event in Brickell is not unusual. Dream Defenders said this was a protest/demonstration to draw attention to the lack of affordable housing in Miami. This is part of a large tradition in Miami, known as “Wheels up, Guns Down.” It is a sister demonstration to one held in Philadelphia in response to an African-American biker’s death. During the event, young black men ride ATVs, dirt bikes and bicycles on the streets of Miami on Martin Luther King Day.
The group accosted by Bartlett, comprised of children ranging from 11-18 years of age, have sought counsel from Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney, with the goal of making sure hate crimes are charged. According to Merritt’s liaison, the children involved have been emotionally impacted, having trouble with sleeping and feeling safe in the community.