Miami drivers are used to plenty of odd sights on I-95, but the late-afternoon holiday crowd yesterday caught an eyeful even for South Florida: hundreds of riders on dirt bikes, motorcycles, and ATVs swarming through the highway traffic, many of them popping wheelies and weaving between lanes.
Motorists and cops were outraged, but the riders say the impromptu mass journey was meant to inspire peaceful protest on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The gathering came together under the trending hashtag #BikesUpGunsDown after a popular stunt rider in Philly was murdered.
The mass ride was only loosely planned and thus caught local police and highway patrol officers by surprise. Given the size of the crowd, police decided that trying to stop the ride would risk more lives than letting it run its course, officials tell the Miami Herald this morning. (Three arrests tied to the ride were later reported.)
"We're not going to put their lives as well as other motorists' lives in danger by chasing these kids on dirt bikes and ATVs," Joe Sanchez, a Florida Highway Patrol, spokesman tells the Herald. "They basically have no respect for other motorists."
But on social media, the bikers tied their ride to a peaceful protest against violence in black neighborhoods. The movement apparently began in October in Philadelphia after 23-year-old stunt rider Kyrell Tyler was shot and killed; hundreds of bikers rode local highways after his funeral, snarling traffic and starting the #BikesUpGunsDown hashtag.
In Miami, the ride was loosely organized by a group that has sparked similar protests in other cities, and riders traveled from along the East Coast to participate.
— ONLYOSHEA (@KILLA_MIXX) January 20, 2015
Not everyone was buying the idea of a peaceful protest coupled with dangerous highway stunts.
Not sure this was what MLK would deem as peaceful....
— April Moss (@AprilAmoss) January 20, 2015
But the riders also found plenty of local support in Miami, where inner-city violence has recently peaked to the point where City Commissioner Keon Hardemon has suggested using federal anti-terrorism laws to go after gang leaders.
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This bike ride is promoting a message: #BikesUpGunsDown. Sounds good to me!
— Christine (@christine_85) January 20, 2015
I'm sorry but I rather have inner city kids on dirt bikes then killing each other #bikesupgunsdown
— Se Lavi (@Goofy_Rick) January 19, 2015