ATV, dirt bike and motorcycle enthusiasts returned to South Florida for a second year Monday, popping wheelies, jumping medians, clogging streets and drawing curious onlookers, all in the name of peace and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Dubbed #Bikesupgunsdown on Twitter, the gathering — which began last year — attracted hundreds of speed junkies from up and down the eastern seaboard. Passengers in cars hung out windows taking pictures as vehicles sped by. Television helicopters hovered overheard recording the stunts.
Most taking part in the several-hours-long journey Monday zigzagged their way through Broward County, going east and west on Hollywood, Commercial and Sunrise boulevards and north up Interstate 95. At one point several riders missed the exit to Dania Beach Boulevard and reversed course against traffic on the highway. At least two riders were injured in accidents.
The event, which last year caught law enforcement off guard, was initially orchestrated through an intense online grass-roots movement created in part as a peaceful but rowdy protest over the mysterious shooting death of renowned Philadelphia biker Kyrell Tyler. His nickname: “Dirt Bike Rell.”
As of Monday evening, Miami-Dade Police said they had made several arrests and towed multiple motorcycles and ATVs, and two accidents with injuries had been reported.
At about 3 p.m. police found a critically injured man near the 12700 block of Northwest 22nd Avenue after responding to reports of “a male riding an unknown motorized bicycle,” according to Miami-Dade police. The man, who appeared to have a head injury, was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in critical condition.
Then about 4 p.m. a man was injured when a motorcycle hit a car at 1200 NW Sixth St. in Fort Lauderdale. The bike rider was taken to Broward Health Medical Center with serious injuries that were not life threatening.
“What a horrible, counterproductive, dangerous stunt this is,” said Fort Lauderdale Deputy Fire Chief Tim Heiser. “I don't know what they are trying to do. It’s just terrible. What are they trying to prove?”
Yet, like last year, police chose to mostly let the riders be. There were no chases and no blocked roadways by early evening. Most South Florida law enforcement agencies have no-chase policies if there is a chance of endangering the public.
Still, law enforcement was prepared. Several local agencies, including Miami-Dade and Miami, created a task force to monitor the events.
“We’re going to be reactive,” Miami-Dade police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said Monday morning. “If they behave and follow traffic laws, there’s nothing to follow.”
There was one strange incident reported — but it came long before the bikes and ATVs took to the road and was far away from Broward County, where most of the riders ended up Monday.
On Sunday, Doral police arrested an out-of-town dirt bike rider they believe was here to take part in Monday’s ride. Though his name wasn’t available Monday, police said the man was driving opposite traffic on several city streets and was charged with reckless driving after police caught up to him in the parking lot of the Miami Herald.
Released, the man returned to the Herald on Monday. An officer who spotted the man driving a white pickup truck arrested him for driving with a suspended license. When Miami Herald security viewed surveillance video from Sunday, it showed a man parking his dirt bike in the west side parking lot and scrambling up a flight of stairs before a patrol car came into view. He then tossed something into shrubbery against the building.
On Monday, a security officer at the Herald found a gun in those shrubs and police requested a copy of the video as part of the investigation.
Police said the man and his friends were staying at a local hotel.