COLUMBIA, 8/3/10 (Beat Byte) -- The National Bikers Roundup, an annual motorcycle rally of mostly black bike enthusiasts in town this week, could drop $10 million into our sales-tax starved coffers, some estimates say.
But local news organizations are portraying rally participants as invading outlaws, traffic snarlers, motorcycle thieves, police resource depleters, road hoggers, trespassers, and potential gang bangers, with nary a rumble about the H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group) Rally later this month, which could bring even more bikers to town.
Missouri H.O.G. Rally
Normally agog over tourism , Columbia has pushed (with subsidies in some cases) the "economic impact" of Roots and Blues, Show Me State Games, Tour of Missouri, Lakota Cup bicycle race, Youzeum, Missouri Theatre, downtown festivals, Boone County Fair, Fred Parry's Wine and Cheese Fest, Tiger Football, college students, and even grossly overpaid MU coaches.
But for the National Bikers Roundup, economic optimism has turned to media angst. Stay at home! Stock up on groceries! Take cover, in your biker gang storm shelters! The latest headline: "Roundup may disrupt voting," about Tuesday's primary elections.
Why all the hand wringing? Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank Waters suggested a racial element last January.
Formerly known as the National Black Bikers Roundup, "the two-wheelers are a convention of black cyclists," Waters wrote in an op-ed entitled, Bikers: An invasion of infidels? "This fact will worry some of our least tolerant types, and I daresay this unspoken racial sentiment might have stimulated some of the criticism of the approaching bikers."
Racial sentiment now blaring from the page, alarming headlines have for weeks topped stories that suggest trouble. Here's some wording from just two recent Trib articles about the rally:
Columbia police anticipate
out in force
Capt. Gary German
Boone County Sheriff’s Department
Maj. Tom Reddin
prominent nationwide security firm
Officer Jessie Haden
"He said the biker rally is incomparable to anything the sheriff’s department has ever been asked to secure."
Police may have busy Night Out.
This year, the biggest night for Columbia Neighborhood Watch also happens to fall on the first day of the National Bikers Roundup, meaning some law enforcement officers are going to have to forgo attendance at the neighborhood events.
Roundup may disrupt voting
Police ready for bike rally crowd: Officers will take on extra shifts all week.http://www.columbia
Deputies, private security set for rally site: Bikers expected to hog highways.
Biker rally traffic cause for warning
Area gears up for biker rally: Sheriff worried about security.
Bikers: An invasion of infidels?
National Bikers Roundup explodes stereotypes
WARNING: "Police detective" email sounds bike rally alarm
COLUMBIA, 8/3/10 (Beat Byte) -- Making the rounds among hundreds of people last week, an urgent email purportedly from a "Columbia police department detective" claims the Columbia Convention and Visitor's Bureau misrepresented the National Bikers Roundup as a "family event."
The email warns instead that readers be on guard for thefts, violence, and biker-gang hooliganism.
"Family event? Didn't Manson call his group 'the family?'" the email asks. "Many of the motorcyle clubs coming to the event have been getting along for nearly a year -- up until the last two weeks. There has been some violence between several different factions."
Claiming Columbia will see "the largest group ever of hardened bikers in town en-masse," some of the writer's suggestions parallel news reports.
For instance, the email says, "The last location for this event experienced many motorcycle thefts -- well over 100. If I had a motorcycle I would leave it locked the first week of August."
Likewise, the Columbia Tribune reported July 30, "Columbia police have been informed that motorcycle thefts have been prevalent during past rallies. [Public information officer Jessie] Haden said rally participants and locals could fall victim to motorcycle thefts, and police are aware that local residents will have a unique opportunity for access to thousands of potentially unattended motorcycles.
Finally, the alleged police detective suggests ultra-defensive driving.
"They [bikers] won't hesitate to launch a handful of ball bearings at your windshield if they think you are driving too close to their group," the email reads. "Although this may be a family event, it is believed to be a mandatory ride for many established biker gangs. If you want to get out in the middle of it because you hear nothing bad has ever happened with this group, then I encourage you to do better research."
Attempts to confirm the identity of the emailing Paul Revere were unsuccessful.