Low Riders and Bikers -- The Parallels

Published in the Hollister Free Lance, April 1, 1998
Dear Editor:

In the March 11 Free Lance, it was mentioned that costs to the city from the low rider "riot" would be minimal.  That's good, but what happened at that event makes me think of the many parallels between it and the upcoming biker rally.  Let's examine some of them.

First, most of the people at the low rider show were probably decent people, and had probably spent a lot of money on their cars.  The biker contingent has consistently made the same claim.  Yet with only 1,000 or so cars, police were attacked, shots were fired, and so on.  Doesn't it seem like the potential could be worse with 50,000 or more people?  The motorcycle event went off reasonably well last year, but that's no guarantee for the future.

Second, the trouble at the car show started when things went wrong with the planned activities -- there was no band and trophies were missing.  Couldn't something similar happen if plans fall through at a motorcycle rally, especially given what appears to be an inexperienced group (the HIRC) planning the rally?  ("Inexperienced" meaning they've only planned one rally before -- last year's downtown rally.)

In fact, I remember comments being made along the lines of "They're coming, and if there's nothing to do, what happens won't be their fault." 

To be fair, the HIRC people are not criminals like the car show promoter is alleged to be, but plans can still fall through.  In fact, the City Council is so worried about that happening that they have been discussing a "Plan B" if the HIRC can't meet their commitments.

Third, both groups seem to thrive on their images as rebels.  The low riders like their chopped and dropped cars with loud stereos, while the motorcyclists like their custom hogs with loud engines.  Both groups also have their criminal elements that carry rebellion too far --  young street gangs that drive low riders, and older groups like the Hell's Angels and Outlaws that ride motorcycles.

While it can be argued that transportation isn't related to the criminal activity, I haven't heard much about gangs riding bicycles, galloping on horses (not since the Old West, at least), or driving SUVs and 4x4s.  And those gangs driving Winnebagos are just senior citizens....

Unfortunately, in addition to the fact that the motorcycle rally is far larger than the low rider show, there is one more area where the parallels don't hold.  The car show riot won't cost us much money because the Hollister police could avail themselves of mutual aid.  However, because the City Council has sanctioned the biker event and planned for it, if something happens there, my understanding is that any aid from law enforcement agencies outside of the county will have to be paid for -- just like last year, when law enforcement was the largest cost to the city and county.

In any case, the car event should be a wake up call to illustrate why a strong police presence should be kept up at these kinds of events.  It's easier to deal with too much protection than to make up for too little.  

Daniel Maese wondered in a letter to the editor in the same edition of the Free Lance if Hollister was Hometown or Homey-town (a great phrase).  Let's keep Hollister a hometown.  Car and motorcycle shows are fine, but after they come and go, we will still be living here, unlike many of our "guests".

UPDATE: Hollister has held a motorcycle rally every year since 1996. There have not been any major incidents.

Want to comment on this? E-mail me at [steve@svpocketpc.com].