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In 2011 it was Prineville’s first experience in hosting the Run To The Cascades motorcycle rally.  According to Aaron Myhra/Fonzie Productions Inc. (Event Promoter), who acquired the rights to the event, it was a success and positive for the community.  The rally was resurrected after being absent for 10 years.

However, there were a few reports about an overbearing amount of law enforcement, and complaints of live music being cancelled.  Go HERE for more information.

Now let’s jump ahead to last weekend.  The Run To The Cascades was in Redmond, OR at the Deschutes County Fairground and  as I previously posted HERE the event was shut down by the police following a confrontation between biker groups (Mongols and HAMC).

Mr. Myhra has since provided an explanation of the events leading up to the closure:

It is with a heavy heart that we are making this public statement today. Our greatest priority when putting on Run To The Cascades (RTTC) is always the safety & enjoyment of the public. This is why we moved RTTC to the Deschutes County fairgrounds, made gate admission more affordable, and brought in amazing vendors & entertainment. This event is a 9/11 memorial/freedom celebration. This event is an opportunity for us to all gather in our community, young and old, to honor the lives lost on 9/11. RTTC is an event created to honor the men & women that have, and those who currently, serve our country—including their families at home—in order that we may gather freely, without fear of condemnation or discrimination.

The irony is, we did gather for this purpose, and Saturday morning following the 9/11 memorial parade through downtown Redmond, we met back at the fairgrounds for a freedom celebration. After the parade, there was a Color Guard Presentation of our National and State flags by respected Native American veterans from Warm Springs. A greeting from Redmond mayor George Endicott, a Vietnam veteran, followed the Flag Ceremony. Mayor Endicott welcomed us all to the city, and even went on to say that he had asked his PD to give some tolerance and understanding.

Following Mayor Endicott’s welcoming speech, local pastor, Preacher Bob, gave an inspiring talk about the freedom that millions have sacrificed their lives to defend, while reminding us to be aware and diligent of the many freedoms we are loosing daily as we go about our busy lives. He read the following words from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

We, the staff & volunteers of The Run to the Cascades Motorcycle Rally, are appalled at the abrupt closing of our event because of a “potential” threat of violence. Contrary to reports, there were NO conversations by law enforcement officials, or even an attempt made by law enforcement to have conversations with either party, who were allegedly involved in a 30 minute “verbal tussle” that handled itself, with both parties involved exiting the fairgrounds without incident.

Law enforcement abruptly shut down the event HOURS AFTER both parties had peacefully exited the event, telling ALL participants, via the PA system, to exit the fairgrounds IMMEDIATELY. Law enforcement stood by and watched as thousands of people driving trucks, motor homes, cars, and motorcycles tried to exit out of the one gate law enforcement had left unlocked. This occurred as thousands of confused people were trying to make their way into the fairgrounds for the evening showing of the Knights of Mayhem and the Foghat concert. Had it not been for the brave and quick response of our staff & volunteers, who had very limited information as to why we were shutting down—literally stepping in front of moving vehicles and directing the chaos—people could have been seriously injured or worse.

Vendors, campers, and attendees with no plan of leaving until later in the evening, or at the event’s conclusion Sunday morning—following the bike blessing and church services—were forced out of the fairgrounds, some of whom had been legally drinking. This action, on the part of law enforcement, put event-goers & many other innocent people in our community into harm’s way. We have since received reports that several DUI’s were issued in Deschutes County following the mandatory exit.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department and the Redmond PD shut down our event in its final hours with several SWAT teams present; reminiscent of Waco, Texas, and many other instances of what occurs when there are abuses of state power over the public. The ensuing mayhem, anger, & confusion caused by the unnecessary event cancelation, put more lives in danger than any “verbal tussle.” Thousands of disappointed attendees, vendors, sponsors, media partners, & event organizers are now left with a very unsettling and unsatisfying experience. We had professional security services on the grounds; they, in conjunction with local law enforcement, could have come up with a dozen different ways to handle a “perceived threat,” and allowed the event to continue to its conclusion.

We ask you, the public, for some patience as we prepare to responsibly, and legally, respond to this act of tyranny, while assessing the damage it has caused everyone involved. There have been many questions of refunds; as more information becomes available, it will be posted on our website http://www.runtothecascades.com . Refunds should also be sought from those responsible for illegally shutting down the event; law enforcement, the fair board, and county commissioners.

We would also like to clear up a couple points of misconception: We worked closely with fairground director Dan Despotopulos in pre planning and during our event. Dan was charged with informing us that law enforcement was making arrangements to close our event and it is our impression that he did not agree with plans pay grades above his had made. Secondly as soon as RTTC was made aware that the police were even thinking about closing the event—approximately 2 HOURS before it actually happened—we ceased charging at all gates! We are members of this community and have no interest in charging our neighbors and out-of-town guests for something the police might, and did, shut down without cause.

Thank you for your patience, support, and cooperation as we move forward.

Aaron Myhra

UPDATE: September 17, 2012 — I was in Central Oregon this past weekend.  I grabbed a coffee and happen to read a report in the TSWeekly where the Redmond police are urging fairgrounds officials to never host another biker rally. “This event is something I will strongly advocate to never be held here again,” Redmond Police Capt. Brian McNaughton told reporters.

Photo courtesy of Run To The Cascades web site.

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Here’s the thing… “If you look around the room, and you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.”  

It’s not my quote, but some interesting words of wisdom by Lorne Michaels of SNL fame which might apply to this past weekend in central Oregon.

At the 2nd annual Run To The Cascades in Redmond, where hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts gathered to celebrate a remembrance of September 11th and to salute the men and women of our military along with the fire and police departments were met with a clash between the Mongols and Hells Angels motorcycle clubs.  According to witness reports, around 5 p.m. Saturday, a large Mongols group approached the Hells Angels members already at the event – the HAMC had a vendor booth there – and “demanded the Hells Angels group leave immediately.”  It was reported that weapons were brandished.  Once word of the confrontation went out to law enforcement it prompted police and sheriff’s deputies to enter the fairgrounds and stand by while the Hells Angels group packed up and left.

Other witnesses reported that the Hells Angels group intended to return with more people to settle the dispute, and at that point, sheriff’s deputies and police contacted fairgrounds Director Dan Despotpulos “and strongly recommended the event be closed in order to protect public safety.”  The fair director agreed and they immediately began closing the event.

I wasn’t at the rally, but can imagine the disappointment!  Are these “life-threatening” events occurring more often at rallies?  I don’t know, but the result is the same on future events.   Similar to the Laughlin River Run melee a few years ago or most recently at last year’s Street Vibrations shooting in Reno/Sparks between the HAMC and Vagos.

The sudden closure of the Run To The Cascades rally meant the closing-night concert by the classic rock group Foghat was cancelled. It’s unclear if event organizers will be on the hook for any refunds.  There were also reports that some people who had camped out at the campground were reluctant to leave, but were then threatened by law enforcement that if anyone stayed they would receive trespassing citations.  Nice indictment of the innocent.

Did law enforcement over react?  Where was the Oregon law enforcement intelligence for the event?  Did the motorcycle club “offense of proximity” only serve to reinforce the symbolic weight the emblems carry for biker clubs?  Did the motorcycle clubs brazen intimidation threat accomplish exactly what was intended?  Did this action sear a pitiful brand on the character of thousands of innocent, respectable, law-abiding men and women in Oregon who are the enthusiast representatives of an admirable sport?  Has Oregon just exited a transformative club period and now set to experience a new “threat on wheels”?

Motorcycle club business is none of my business, but when the public is exposed to these individuals are we to just ignore the incident and continue on with adding mustard to our bratwursts and t-shirt buying as if it didn’t happen?

UPDATE: September 17, 2012 — I was in Central Oregon this past weekend.  I grabbed a coffee and happen to read a report in the TSWeekly where the Redmond police are urging fairgrounds officials to never host another biker rally. “This event is something I will strongly advocate to never be held here again,” Redmond Police Capt. Brian McNaughton told reporters.

Photo taken by author at AHDRA drags in Woodburn, OR.  Poster photo courtesy of Run To The Cascades web site.

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gang_threatAs a biker, I know there is a difference between the true image of brothers in the wind and public perceptions.  This becomes acute when it’s time to work on serious issues like association rights, enhanced “affiliation” penalties, noise mandates, ordinances to eliminate rallies and deal with 1%’ers. 

Unfortunately, it seems when legislators deal with serious motorcycle issues they do so with little knowledge, act as  experts and spray paint so called fixes on everyone.  And at least one community is to blame — the media — for often failing to report unbiased information regarding motorcycle “clubs” or gangs.   More often than not the reporting tends to lean towards the sensational.  Bloggers are guilty too.

So, before I get a bunch of email stating how the term Motorcycle “gangs” indicates my bias or how they are misunderstood and are really a bunch of biker dads who love leather…let’s review the 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment (PDF) which was recently released.  While much of the report is skewed toward “street gangs” (examples: Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, Ñeta, MS 13, Sureños 13 etc.,) there is a lot of information about outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) (examples: Bandidos, Hells Angels, Mongols, Outlaws, Sons of Silence, etc.) all working to control retail-level distribution of cocaine, meth, heroin, and marijuana.  The OMG designation is from the document and I’m using it to be consistent with the report.

The report conservatively estimates more than 1 MILLION gang members belong to more than 20,000 gangs.  There are between 280 and 520 Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMG) that range in size from a single chapter to hundreds of chapters worldwide. Estimates indicate that more than 20,000 OMG members reside in the U.S.  If I did the math correct, OMG membership represent about 2% of the overall gang membership and about 3% of the total number of gangs.  Not an alarming number in of itself, but somehow attracts a disproportionate share of media publicity.  A few factoids from the report:

  1. Outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) pose a growing threat to law enforcement and public safety. Especially pronounced along the U.S.- Canada and U.S. – Mexico border. They frequently associate with criminal organizations to facilitate drug smuggling into the U.S.
  2. Criminal gangs are responsible for as much as 80% of ALL crime in many communities.
  3. National-level OMG criminal activity poses a serious national domestic threat. National level OMGs are a considerable concern to law enforcement because they are highly structured organizations with memberships ranging into the thousands, maintaining strong associations with transnational Drug Transport Organizations (DTOs) and other criminal organizations.
  4. In the U.S. 109 regional-level OMGs have been identified by gang investigators; most support one of the national-level OMGs. Several regional-level OMGs maintain independent associations with transnational DTOs and other criminal organizations.
  5. For the first time provides insight into the size and role of gangs in the military

The report goes on to highlight how the criminal organizations — like technology — seem to move fast, adopt and never stay the course with tactics.  They are most busy and seldom wait on the sidelines missing out on “revenue” or allow themselves to become marginalized.  They use cell phone voice/text messaging capabilities to conduct transactions and prearrange meetings.  They use multiple cell phones or prepaid phones which are frequently discarded after conducting operations.  Internet-based methods are being adopted and the use of social networking sites, encrypted e-mail, IP telephones, and Twitter message sites are common.  The use of social media sites such as MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook to post well-produced, self-promoting music/videos of the “gang” lifestyle.  Pre-teens are down loading propaganda ring-tones and images which glorify gangs!  There has also been an increased effort by gang members to actively “spar” on internet message boards to protect their virtual spaces as well as use internet profiling techniques to recruit.

My grip after looking over the report is the fact it doesn’t attempt to address:

  1. Gang intelligence improvements that work and help reduce incidents.
  2. Gang suppression techniques which are working and the role of the community.
  3. Legal considerations on enforcement issues and use of gang-specific legislation.
  4. Cost of anti-gang resources and return on investment – no performance measurement of the organization?

So, do you think this report will help or hurt motorcycle enthusiasts?  Do you think it will accelerate legislation to address enhanced “affiliation” penalties in the northwest?   Should we wait for the Homeland Security advisory system to monitor and report on the ongoing threat levels of the nations criminal gangs?  If so it would be set at HIGH (Orange). 

Photo courtesy of National Gang Intelligence Center.

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queen_bookI won’t attempt to make sweeping comments about another outlaw motorcycle “club” undercover “tell-all” novel.  There are so many styles and flavors these days and when a reader interacts with a book they are not only served a story, but often feel connected to the writer.

The Under and Alone novel is different because of movie rights, but more on that in a minute.

The back story is the novel is based on the real life of William Queen, a motorcycle enthusiast who successfully penetrated the San Fernando Valley chapter of the Mongols Motorcycle “club” using an identity of “Billy St. John.”  After becoming a fully “patched” member, he eventually rose to the level of chapter Vice-President and treasurer where he had access to the clubs activity of which some was criminal.  In the book, Queen details how, after 28 months in the club he began to battle the conflicts both within the club and within himself as the isolation of the work made him feel the Mongols were his family.

What makes the story compelling is that Queen spent twenty years as a Special Agent with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).  He was a Vietnam War veteran serving with the U.S. Army Special Forces and was awarded the Silver Star during his 1971 tour of duty. After his military service, he devoted his entire career to law enforcement.  Early operations involved infiltrating the Aryan Nation and the Ku Klux Klan organizations.

William Queen

William Queen

Despite his nickname, “Billy the Slow-Brain”, he was successful in gathering evidence resulting in a series of raids in May 2000 by almost 700 LEO’s in four states.  His efforts led to the arrest and conviction of 54 club members.  Queen was awarded the Federal Bar Association’s Medal of Honor for his successful involvement with the Mongols.  After the club member trials, Queen retired from the ATF, and then wrote the book while in the witness protection program.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  In 2003, while the book was still only a draft, film rights were sold for $1M to Icon Productions, the Hollywood production company owned by Mel Gibson.  The book became a bestseller upon its release in 2005, and the movie adaptation, will have Gibson himself playing Queen.  The movie is scheduled for release by Warner Bros in 2010.  This would be the first project that Gibson takes the lead role in, since the 2003 movie Signs.  Gibson will not direct the movie, instead Gregor Jordan (Ned Kelly) and Antoine Fuqua (Shooter, Training Day) have been hired to direct.  The book is being adapted by Ned Zeman and Daniel Barnz.

Consumer spending drives demand. The profitability of individual companies depends on creativity, marketing, and distribution of quality movie content and time will tell if this subject matter is something the public wants to consume. Gibson has been a lightning rod for controversy of late, but this role could bring him back into the mainstream vernacular like the Vietnam War drama We Were Soldiers and Payback did.  Who knows.

Photo courtesy William Queen/Random House.

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money_tankI like attending motorcycle rallies, but pretending everything is just wonderful in the “land-of-rally” is akin to an ostrich head in the sand. 

For decades municipalities have viewed motorcycle rallies as revenue generating opportunities.   They pass along all or much of the costs to the commercial entities as possible.  I’ve been to several rallies during the past year and the economic challenges have brought out fewer attendees and a lot more controversy.  New math has always confused me, but the demand any price and they will come day is over!

If you dissected expenses one could logically debate the single largest cost is law enforcement/security.  Be it extreme planning for any and all worst case scenario’s, DOJ command centers or simply aggressive personnel staffing to obtain overtime compensation….it’s become a nonsensical argument for the future.  There are fundamental economic principles at play here.   I don’t know if you noticed, but these events are being promoted more-and-more as a “shop till you drop” flea market rather than a motorcycle rally.

Under the public records request the Hollister Free Lance Press obtained the 2008 Hollister Motorcycle Rally costsSurprise!  The law enforcement expenses added up to a whopping $359,000 – an ever increasing number.  In the article, editor Kollin Kosmicki provides great comparisons with other major rallies:

  1. The City of Sturgis, which attracts about 700,000 visitors over 10 days, budgets approx $300,000 – per Sturgis Police Chief Jim Bush.
  2. Laconia Motorcycle Week has about 350,000 people over 10 days, and the city spends about $140,000 on law enforcement – per Police Chief Michael Moyer.
  3. Daytona Beach, which hosts two rallies bringing in a total of around 600,000 visitors, spent about $170,000 in total this year on security for the two events — according to a city hall spokeswoman.

Hollister spends much more for security on a 3-day event (attracts fewer than 93,000 visitors) compared to any other city!  To be fair and the list would be long, the State of California mandates the use of California officers, there is a larger street gang presence and I’m not trying to underscore the ongoing confrontation between the Hells Angels and Mongols.

But there are fundamental economic principles at play and how does this end…a city in bankruptcy?  I’m not trying to second guess the strategy of Hollister Police Chief Jeff Miller, but there has to be a way to reduce the continually inflated cost of law enforcement at these events.  Biker rallies always attract a small percentage of individuals who are there to specifically commit crimes.

What happens when they hold a motorcycle rally and no one comes?

Photo courtesy Flickr

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pondeadvt2002_pg6One of the cool things about the internet is discovering a taste of world knowledge while sitting on the peripheral edge.  Often when doing research for blog posts it feels like a mini-journey to me.  For every step forward, I take two to the side or three back before compiling a broad range of information.

Part of my post-election withdrawal therapy has been background research on the only Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) member (Robert G. McClure) to be convicted of four murders in the State of Oregon.  McClure was found guilty of execution-style killings in the small Seventh-day Adventist community of Gaston, Oregon and sentenced to four consecutive life prison terms.  More about this in a future post, but one of the side paths this took me on was across the Pacific to the Australian Crime Commission.  They deemed ‘biker gangs’ a significant criminal threat to their nation.   As a result, the Australian Government is moving forward to ban the wearing of “colors” nationwide (similar to actions taken last month in CA. with the Mongols MC arrests) and they’re introducing laws to take legal action which allows them to confiscate ‘motorcycle club’ assets, including the club brand (“patches”), motorcycles and property.  It’s an interesting tactic for governments to seize trademarked name/brands and property, but I’ll save the far reaching laws with broad definitions and the suspension of habeas corpus rant for another day.

Humble Pie Concert

Humble Pie Concert

It was during my Australian surfing I ran across this little nugget buried in a video clip.  First off, and I’m dating myself here, the musical performance is one of the greats –  Humble Pie (Steve Marriott) – and the song is called “Big Train” or maybe its “Big Train Stops at Memphis.”  The beginning of the video has a member of the HAMC (“Mother”) who shouts to the audience… “One more song and they ain’t going home at all.” Somehow you believe him!

The Australian music festival at Ponde was famous in its own right, but certainly not on the same scale as the Altamont Speedway Festival which headlined the Rolling Stones.  This video was recorded off an Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) late night TV music show called “Rock Arena” back in 1983.  The show was cancelled in 1989.  Others in the video were keyboard player Goldy McJohn, a former member of Steppenwolf, the Bass player was Jim Leverton and the drummer (unseen) was Fallon Williams.  Another one of my “favs” is Led Zeppelin’s song “Whole Lotta Love” which is said to be a direct take off of Marriott’s version of the classic song “You Need Lovin’“. Give it a listen and you’ll see what I mean…

mannum_australia1The Ponde Music Festival ran for 23 years (1979 to 2002) in Mannum, 50 miles from Adelaide Australia, and was hosted by the HAMC.  I find it curious that over the last year there has been a dramatic increase in arrests and negative publicity coming out of Australia on issues with, in Aussie words, “bikie” gangs.  I’m intrigued how “club” attitudes have migrated from supporting a public musical festival to turf wars, firebombs, shootings and combative LE exchanges?  Internet searches reveal little about the perceptions of the festival in the past which started out as a gathering for bike enthusiasts, but expanded over the years into a full-blown top talent multi-day music festival.

 

Video courtesy YouTube, Newspaper photo courtesy of Advertiser Newspapers Pty. Ltd.

All Rights Reserved © 2008 Northwest Harley Blog

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