By Ted Scouten


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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Dozens of riders took to the streets of South Florida Monday for the annual “wheels up, guns down” ride, putting themselves and others at risk.

As day turned into night, riders continued speeding through the streets of Miami, popping wheelies and driving recklessly on their motorcycles, dirt bikes, and ATVs.

Miami-Dade Police say that between January 13 and January 15 there were eight felony arrests, six misdemeanor arrests and three traffic arrests. They handed out 18 hazardous moving violations and eight non-hazardous. Additionally, four firearms were seized, three vehicles were impounded and 72 dirk bikes and ATVs were impounded.

“The problem is that they go through red lights, speed and create havoc and that’s something that’s unacceptable on our streets,” said Miami Dade Police Director Juan Perez.

Chopper 4 was over the riders as they made their way up NW 27th Avenue, narrowly missing cars and spotted them driving the wrong way on the Gratigny Expressway.

That’s where two dozen Miami-Dade police officers questioned eight men who were on mini-bikes just as dozens of other bikers flew by.

“We had motorcycles and ATVs traveling throughout the streets in a reckless manner, putting other people in danger among themselves,” said Alvaro Zabaleta with Miami-Dade Police. “One of them is in critical condition from an accident that occurred yesterday and of course this is something that could’ve been ultimately avoided.”

Tensions really heated up late in the afternoon near 199th Street and 10th Avenue when a Florida Highway Patrol officer pointed what looks to be a stun gun at two riders.

He pushed them over before ordering one to lay face down on the ground.

As he walked back to his own vehicle, a man on a dirt bike flies in and actually tries to kick the officer before eventually circling back around and kicking the officer’s car several times.

Police, meantime, impounded all the mini-bikes because they aren’t street legal.

“We weren’t trying to go out and act crazy,” said Jammin’ Joe who owns a mini-bike store.

The guys who own them say they had no plans on taking part of the Wheels Up, Guns Down ride. They said they were trying to store their bikes.

“They were just waiting for me to come so they can lock them up in the shop instead of taking them home. They full of gas, we lock them up in the back.”

In Broward County, the sheriff’s office teamed up with other agencies to run a traffic enforcement operation. By Monday evening, they had arrested 14 people for reckless driving.

Dozens of people in the area had been observed driving illegally or on unregistered vehicles on city streets.

Law enforcement was out in unmarked vehicles to enforce the law.

“Where there is a large group of people, riders congregating or driving recklessly we wait for an opportunity to take him into custody in a very passive way at a traffic light or when fueling for gas,” said Chris McCoy with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

The ride began a few years ago as a way to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and promote non-violence, but many say the message gets lost in the mayhem on the road.

Tawana Akins knows the pain of loss.

Her 6-year-old nephew King Carter was killed in the crossfire. She also lost four other relatives to gun violence.  She appreciates the message but wants the ride reigned in.

“I don’t like the fact that they drive crazily cuz I almost hit one the other day while I was driving, but I understand the purpose they’re trying to do something to promote togetherness and stuff like that in this separated world,” said Akins.

On Sunday, as sort of a preview to Monday’s official ride, riders raced through the streets of Miami and onto highways, some performing dangerous stunts. One driver wiped out at 62nd Street and 22nd Avenue and was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital with serious injuries.

The rides went into the night.

“The message that we bring, we try to stay away from violence, exactly ‘bikes up, guns down’,” said Joel Cruz.

Many in the community like the message, but the roadway antics are something else.

“I think they should just be cautious of everyone around because, you know, with four wheelers and what not, even when I’m driving, it’s very nerve-racking for me personally because I don’t want to hit no one and stuff like that,” said Zakarah Williams.

“We’re not trying to justify the illegal but this is something that we love and do as one. Some people like cars, some people like music, we like dirt bikes and four-wheelers and we just come together to ride. We know it’s illegal but it’s not going to stop and it’s just going to keep getting bigger” said another rider.

On Sunday, police confiscated 38 ATVs, issued 29 citations and made several arrests.

Ted Scouten

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