During a demonstration in Miami on Martin Luther King Day, a group of young Black activists on bicycles protested for fair housing. As the protesters peacefully blocked the streets, people in their cars began ferociously honking.
Eventually, the confrontation between the protesters and the motorists escalated when a white man was seen on video pulling a gun on a group of teens and repeatedly hurling the n-word.
Mark Allen Bartlett, 51, was arrested Monday and charged with carrying a concealed firearm, but now he could face hate-crime charges, according to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, reported The Ledger.
“I am committed to filing the appropriate charges and to vigorously prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law,” Rundle told the Ledger.
In an interview with WPLG, Bartlett said he had been trying to protect his girlfriend, Dana Scalione. Viral footage from the incident was shared by Dream Defenders, a Florida civil rights group that organized the protest. In the clip, Bartlett’s girlfriend is seen confronting the protesters.
“Who do you think you are, blocking the streets?” Scalione asked in the video.
After a back-and-forth, Scalione accused one of the protesters of touching her.
“You just touched me, you bunch of thugs,” she said, turning to walk away from the group.
Then Bartlett, holding a black handgun in his hand, ran up to the group and began shouting expletives and racial slurs. In an interview with WPLG, Bartlett defended his use of the word.
“The reason why we use that word, the reason why Chinese people use the word, why Japanese people, European people, the reason why everybody uses that word is because Black people use that word,” he said.
He then said nobody uses racial slurs for ethnic groups because they don’t use the words.
“Nobody uses those words anymore. Why? Because Puerto Ricans don’t say that to each other. Because Asian people don’t say that to each other. Because the Jewish people don’t say that to each other. The only ones that continue to say it are Black people. So what’s the first thing in my head or most people’s heads? Unfortunately, it’s the n-word.”
After footage from the incident went viral, members of the group who organized the protest held a press conference.
“These kids were protesting and a gun was pulled out on a kid,” Dwight Wells, a member of Dream Defenders, said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
According to an arrest affidavit, police stopped Bartlett and found the gun in his Range Rover with no permit.
“Why am I being arrested, when those kids are free to ride around?” he said. “I did pull out my gun, but I never pointed it at them.”
Bartlett later said his only regret from the incident was not having a concealed carry permit.
In a statement Tuesday, civil rights attorney Lee Merritt announced that the protesters had hired him to represent them in a federal lawsuit against Bartlett and Scalione.
(Photo: Miami-Dade Department Of Corrections)