South Florida law enforcement officials on high alert ahead of annual ‘Wheels Up, Guns Down’ ride

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Authorities are getting ride-out ready ahead of the weekend before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Every year, ATV and dirt bike riders illegally hit the streets of South Florida for a “Wheels Up, Guns Down” ride, and law enforcement agencies in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are on high alert, stressing that the Monday event is supposed to be for bicyclists only.

“The goal is to prevent unnecessary delays, injuries and property damage associated with reckless driver behavior,” Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Alejandro Camacho said.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said his agency will also be prepared and “will be conducting a zero-tolerance operation as this event is non sanctioned, it’s illegal, and its a threat to public safety.”

In past years, videos of riders taunting outnumbered police officers have gone viral on social media.

“It’s useless to run from us because with the number of aircraft and resources we have in the sky, you’re not going to get away,” FHP Maj. Robert Chandler said Thursday during a news conference in Broward.

“We know where these groups are, we’re gonna handle it — please do not take matters into your own hand,” Chandler added. “Do not engage with these folks.”

Miami-Dade police also held a news conference Thursday with the Florida Highway Patrol and said officers tow dozens of ATVs and dirt bikes each year.

“Getting a ticket or arrested and having your vehicle impounded is costly and no way to enjoy a holiday weekend,” one trooper said.

In 2008, a new law required motorcyclists to “maintain both wheels on the ground at all times.”

But typically, we still see wheelies being popped on busy roadways during the annual ride-out.

Florida law also requires ATV riders to wear over-the-ankle boots, eye protection and a safety helmet.

“We will be doing a high visibility patrol and we will be doing enforcement,” Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez said.

Organizers say the ride will be safe and honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Let’s ride nationwide this Monday as we ride as we further show our abilities to unite and ride for a purpose,” one organizer said.

Tony, however, said he wasn’t convinced by what organizers claimed was the ride’s purpose.

“When we execute our traffic infractions, we always find a gun out here, and so, there is some hypocrisy around these activities, not only in how they’re supposed to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, but in the name in which they’ve titled their own event,” he said.

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