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Monday, August 17, 2015

CA - REGION: Fear slams brakes on rally.


California -
The city pulls sponsorship of American Heat amid concerns about violence after deadly biker gang clash in Texas.
Fears of violence by biker gangs has put the brakes on American Heat, an annual street fair that draws thousands of motorcyclists to Palm Springs.
The Oct. 23-25 event was dropped by the promoter after the city and a group of hoteliers pulled $40,000 in sponsorships and ordered additional security.
The decision was prompted by a deadly May clash between outlaw motorcycle clubs outside a restaurant in Waco, Texas.
Nine bikers died and 18 were injured in the melee, in which police also fired their guns. More than 300 weapons, as well as chains, knives and brass knuckles, were recovered at the scene and almost 200 people were arrested.
While the local event has not had riots or shootings, Palm Springs police Sgt. Harvey Reed said “the potential is there, whenever you get a certain mix of individuals.”
Reed said he was not aware of any intelligence on planned violence by outlaw groups.
American Heat has been held in Palm Springs every year since 2000 – except for one.
The rally was called off in 2002 after violence at the River Run in Laughlin, Nev. That conflict between the rival Mongols and Hells Angels inside Harrah’s casino left three bikers dead and a dozen people injured.
In 2008, the Palm Springs City Council again considered police concerns about violence between outlaw clubs, but voted to keep the rally going.
Inland bikers say worries over this year’s American Heat rally are overblown.
The event features bands, vendors and stunt shows along Palm Canyon Drive. It gives riders a chance to make friends and swap stories, said Ron Morris of Yucaipa, who attends with his wife Lizz and mans the Christian Motorcyclists Association booth.
“You talk about places you ride, you talk about motorcycles, you talk about good places to get lunch,” he said. “There’s thousands of people walking up and down the street … it’s kind of like a swap meet.”
Though members of some outlaw groups do attend, they keep their beefs to themselves, Morris said.
“They don’t usually take that fight to an event like this,” he said.
Police arrested five people at last year’s American Heat and eight the year before, Reed said.