Police in riot gear cleared hundreds of dirt bikers, bicyclists and onlookers from Reisterstown Road near Druid Hill Park Sunday evening, claiming the crowd had become unruly and thrown rocks at officers.
A dirt bike was seized and some cars were towed, but no one was injured and no arrests were made, police said. The police Foxtrot helicopter circled overhead, ordering people to leave the area or risk having their cars towed before police cars parked in the street and officers spilled out in body armor and holding shields. The crowd dispersed without incident.
The standoff between the police and the bikers is the latest in what has become a weekly confrontation in the Northwest Baltimore corridor. Each Sunday, the bikers wheelie down the road from Druid Park Drive to Liberty Heights Avenue, then officers try to clear the crowd by issuing parking tickets to people parked in the area.
Maj. Marc Partee, the Northwest District police commander, called the dirt bikes a "scourge" that need to be removed from the streets.
"What I really would like to talk about is the danger that this reckless sport, as some would call it, is posing to the community," Partee said. "I would also encourage the community to continue to call, to continue to email, and let us know if they see these dirt bikes being stored in homes and sheds and things of that nature. A number of these dirt bikes are stolen, and they pose a very immediate and extreme danger to the community."
Many in the crowd and on social media complained that the weekly bike rally is harmless and gives people something to do on a Sunday afternoon.
Vicky Callis, 45, a Park Heights native who now lives in Woodlawn, said she comes each Sunday to chaperone her children, who love to watch the bikers.
"We're not out here to start anything," she said. "They like to come out here and enjoy themselves. It's just a Baltimore thing."
Partee referenced a child being hurt in a hit-and-run by a dirt bike in Cherry Hill in June to emphasize the hazards the bikes pose.
"This is not a sport, this is not fun, and it continues to drain my resources," he said. "And the individuals that actually live in the community are not happy with it at all."
Partee said the enforcement this weekend indicated the department's plan to stop them.
"We're here every weekend," he said. "I put as many officers as I can on this stretch of road to keep them from doing what they're doing."
As Partee and other police officials returned to their vehicles, three more dirt bikes whizzed past.