The guardians of four black teens targeted by a white couple on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with vulgarity and racial slurs have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the couple, claiming their actions amount to a hate crime.
In addition to the hate crime charge, the nine-page lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court early Wednesday morning claims Dana Scalione and Mark Bartlett intentionally emotionally distressed and assaulted the teens. The lawsuit also claims a battery charge against Scalione and asks for damages to be determined by a jury by trial.
Wednesday’s filing came a week after the teens, their guardians and attorneys forecast the lawsuit while gathered at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
Bartlett was arrested after the Jan. 21 incident and charged with carrying a concealed weapon. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said her office is investigating whether to add an additional hate-crime charge. Bartlett’s girlfriend Scalione was not charged, but the day after a video of the confrontation shot through cyberspace, she was fired from her job as a Realtor.
The confrontation between the black teens and older white couple catapulted to national attention because of video taken by a local activist who was with them during the protest.
That video shows Bartlett, 51, pulling a gun on the teens as they wheel their bicycles through traffic, bringing it to a halt on Brickell Drive. Bartlett, who later apologized, said he was coming to the rescue of his girlfriend who had angrily gotten out of the car to address the teens. They were protesting what he believe to be unfair housing practices. At one point, Scalione calls them “a bunch of thugs” after claiming one of them ran over her foot.
In the video, Bartlett can be heard calling the teens “stupid n------” and “f------ pieces of s---.” He was arrested a few hours later by Miami police on Biscayne Boulevard just north of AmericanAirlines Arena.
The teens named in the lawsuit were participating in a “Bikes Up, Guns Down” protest, an offshoot of the “Wheels Up, Guns Down” movement that has become popularized in South Florida each year during MLK Day.