Mark Bartlett, who threatened a group of Black protesters with a loaded gun and yelled racial slurs at them on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2019, is pushing for a “Stand Your Ground” defense.
The incident took place at Miami’s Brickell Avenue Bridge when a group of teens rode their bicycles to the bridge as part of “Bikes Up, Guns Down” to protest the lack of affordable housing in the city. Some of the protesters were as young as 11 years old, according to Local 10 News.
In a hearing Monday, the young boys Bartlett allegedly threatened testified that Bartlett, then 51, got out of his car with a loaded gun and called them the n-word and other insults. Multiple cellphone videos capture the incident. One of the young protesters, Jamal Anderson, recalled some of the slurs. Deante Joseph, another protester, also testified to being verbally abused. One video shows Bartlett yelling at one protester, “Get in front of my car! You f [expletive] piece of s [expletive],” and “N [racial slur]s suck!”
Videos of the incident show that none of Bartlett’s provocations caused the protesters to react with violence. In fact, witnesses said the group was peacefully protesting and it was Bartlett and his girlfriend who responded with aggression.
Here is more on the story, per Local 10 News:
On MLK Day 2019 in Brickell, a group of teenagers, boys, and girls ― some as young as 11 years old — protested the lack of affordable housing in Miami. The boys rode their bicycles to Brickell as part of “Bikes Up, Guns Down,” a nationwide movement for public MLK Day group ride-outs to protest racial injustice.
One boy held up a “Save Liberty Square” sign, referring to the community where a historic public housing project for Blacks first opened in 1937. “Black Lives Matter!” some of the boys shouted since the Liberty City neighborhood has remained predominantly Black for decades even though the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 ended racial segregation.
The BLM movement advocated stopping traffic as a form of civil disobedience to disrupt the daily life of people who might otherwise be unaware of their plight. When the Miami affordable housing protesters blocked Brickell Avenue, Dana Scalione, a real estate agent, was a passenger waiting in Bartlett’s Range Rover.
Scalione got out of the SUV. Videos show she walked around frantically confronting the young protesters on Brickell Avenue. A witness’ video shows Scalione saying, “You are going to end up in jail,” “Please, move your bike,” “I have kids I need to pick up! You guys are blocking me,” and “This is not saving your cause.”
Another witness’ video shows Scalione accused a teenage boy of running over her foot, called them “a bunch of thugs” and pushed a boy. He didn’t push her back. Bartlett, her boyfriend at the time, jumped out of the Range Rover while holding a loaded gun.
Cops eventually cuffed Bartlett on Jan. 21, 2019, and found his loaded gun in his car. He asked for a trial by jury on Jan. 22, 2019, and pleaded not guilty on Feb. 19, 2019. Bruce H. Lehr, Bartlett’s lawyer, filed a motion earlier this year for statutory immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action on justifiable use of force.
“They were banging on the hoods of the car. They are scaring people. They have masks on. They are scaring people,” he said during the recent hearing to characterize Bartlett’s threatening actions as self-defense.
After getting out of Miami-Dade County jail, Bartlett said he got out of his car to confront the protesters with his gun because he feared for Scalione’s safety. An officer on the scene said he saw the kids obstructing traffic, but saw no need to exit his vehicle.
“First of all, I didn’t have to get out of the car because I handled the incident without getting out of the car and I still feel that’s the best way,” Miami Police Officer Carlos Martinez said about his response to the BLM protests.
Bartlett, now 54, is facing five felony charges of carrying a concealed weapon, three counts of aggravated assault with prejudice, and improper exhibition of a firearm.
The stand your ground hearing will resume Thursday, according to WSVN-TV.