CBS News—“Bikes up, guns down”


January 20, 2015

A mob of people erratically riding motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) along Florida highways said they were honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s illegal to ride dirt bikes and ATVs on those roads, but highway patrol said it couldn’t chase after the reckless riders. It’s against department policy to pursue scofflaws over traffic violations and they feared pursuing the riders would endanger more lives, reports CBS News correspondent Vicente Arenas.

Organizers said they’d been planning the ride for months, using social media sites as a virtual bulletin board to gather a crowd from across the East Coast.

They rode down highways and freeways at speeds up to 70 mph performing dangerous stunts and disrupting rush-hour traffic. There were easily hundreds of riders in this swarm, some banding together after the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. parade.

The message of Monday’s ride was “Bikes up, guns down.”

And even though the riders were pushing a message of peace, police said they broke the law.

“There’s less chance of being stopped, less chance of being caught and punished if you’re with a large group that overwhelms the capacity of law enforcement to intervene,” sociologist Jeffrey Butts said.

The group ride trend has become, at times, menacing, resulting in confrontations with police officers and other drivers.

In September 2013 in New York City, a swarm of bikers chased and attacked the driver of an SUV, smashing in his window and dragging him out of his car after the man struck two bikers, one of which was left paralyzed.

“The motive is attention and bonding with the group,” Butts said.

He said it’s like a flash mob on wheels.

“The wheelies, the spinning out draws attention to them,” Butts said.

Monday’s ride in Miami led to three minor accidents and at least three arrests.

However, Butts said, with hundreds of people taking over the road, police are left with few options.

“You want the police to protect the citizens from that kind of infringement but you don’t want them to overreact so it’s a balancing test,” Butts said.

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