The People’s Republic of Texas

June 5, 2015

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     Three weeks later and over 150 motorcyclists are still being held in a Texas prison for no other reason than attending a political meeting while being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

     Waco city police along with Texas state troopers, SWAT, FBI and ATF used the unfortunate incident on May 17th to conduct a mass arrest of just about anyone they wanted to. Those arrested have included citizens on the other side of the building, a man who doesn’t even own a motorcycle who was just giving some friends a lift and at least one rider who showed up late for the meet after events were over.

     As reported by ABC News Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton stated, “At last count we have 170 individuals that we have arrested and are booking or have been booked into the McLennan County Jail. Those individuals are being charged with engaging in organized crime in reference to the shooting at Twin Peaks, which is a capital murder.”

     What?

     So everyone. Protagonists, antagonists, witnesses, victims and innocent bystander alike have all been arrested and charged. Seriously? How would you like to be shot then arrested for helping the person who shot you. According to Texas officials not one single person who attended the pre-scheduled public legislative meeting is the victim of a crime. There are no witnesses or innocent bystanders. Everyone who attended the event is guilty of being a biker and that’s good enough for Texas.

     Regardless of what state you are in this should really be raising some red flags. And apparently the red one being raised in Texas is that of China. Since when was attending a political gathering considered a capitol crime against the State in America?

     And yes, that’s exactly what the May meeting was. The under reporting by news outlets on that fact I find infuriating. Every state in America has a COC (Confederation of Clubs) meeting to discuss legislative issues that all riders no matter who have a vested interest in. Three seconds of research by any news reporter could of confirmed that. But in Texas showing up for a public gathering to hear the latest on House Bill 2459 is a crime against the state and if anyone steps out of line you will all be arrested.

     An online petition to Free the Waco Bikers has been started and could use your signature.

     Texas House Bill 2459 by the way is a proposal that would make drivers give motorcycles a three foot buffer when passing or making a turn. I haven’t seen the actual agenda but it’s a reasonable assumption this might of been one of the topics to be discussed. And as an example this would be one of the topics you could expect to spend some time on when attending a COC or any MRO (Motorcycle Rights Organization) meeting. Don’t let the Hooters knockoff location fool you. Anyone who’s attended an MRO conference can tell you that if you can stay awake for the whole thing it’s considered a success.

     But in the People’s Republic of Texas political activists, MRO groups and concerned citizens alike are all considered members of criminal gangs for the purpose of mass roundups and detentions. Makes for more dramatic headlines don’t ‘cha know. It also helps distract from arrests being conducted without individual probable cause, punitive $1,000,000 bonds, presumed guilt by association, refusals of public information requests and a projected three months of imprisonment without a court appearance.

     Still unexplained is what exactly 18-22 local and SWAT police were doing there in the first place. Ask yourself this. When attending a public event or scheduled political gathering and extra police are present to help keep the peace are they stationed throughout the venue? Or are they all waiting out front with automatic rifles.

     Yeah, thought so.

     The actions taken by police following this tragic event should be a concern for all riders, not just those in Texas. It’s too easy to think this type of thing couldn’t happen to you because any reasonable person should expect to be treated equally before the law. Especially here in Washington.

     Why especially us? Because a few years ago we passed a motorcycle anti-profiling bill that said these types of mass arrests and presumptions of guilt by association are wrong and illegal. And yet even here this is still happening.

     RCW 43.101.419 – Motorcycle profiling.

     (3) For the purposes of this section, “motorcycle profiling” means the illegal use of the fact that a person rides a motorcycle or wears motorcycle-related paraphernalia as a factor in deciding to stop and question, take enforcement action, arrest, or search a person or vehicle with or without a legal basis under the United States Constitution or Washington state Constitution.

     The language of the law seems pretty clear cut me but that didn’t stop police in the Tri-Cities. The Tri-City Herald reported back in June of last year that police in Benton county had stopped motorcyclists to gather potential gang information unrelated to any traffic violation. It was stated that photos and videos were taken of the motorcyclists, including having some of the women remove pieces of clothing so photos of tattoos could be taken. One of the stops involving eight motorcyclists occurred as they were leaving a political meeting hosted by the COC to discuss legislative issues. Following the incident public officials then went on with refusals to public information requests about the detentions.

     Sound familiar?

     The same newspaper has since reported that a suit against the city of Kennewick for refusing those information requests was settled in favor of the motorcyclists. The rest of the suit has since moved and is pending in Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Washington State against the City of Kennewick, Benton County and the officers involved in the stops. It will be the first major legal test of the anti-profiling law we passed a few years ago. Here’s me hoping the motorcyclists win. 

     Without a similar law protecting riders in Texas it is unclear what suits will be filed against the city, county and state. The Waco Tribune has reported that at least one suit for unlawful arrest, detention and property seizure has been filed. I would expect this to be just the first of many. Simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time isn’t supposed to be a crime in this country.

     For those riders reading this and are thinking, “But I’m not a member of any Motorcycle Rights Organizations!” My reply would be, “Well why the hell aren’t you?”

     Our local and national MROs are the reason we are slowly putting an end to Motorcycle Only Checkpoints. Ever wonder why we don’t have to dress up like Power Rangers with inflatable air bag suits? MROs. Who is putting a stop to motorcycle seatbelts and reducing the use of cheese grater guardrails? Your Motorcycle Rights Organizations that who. I encourage all riders to look up their local chapters and help secure your rights.

     The Texas COC has issued two alerts asking concerned citizens to act, First and Second. Help yourself by helping a fellow rider in Texas and let officials know that these actions will not stand.

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The West Report

The opinions expressed in The West Report are the author’s own. Feel free to repost or share, we just ask you credit or link to this article as a source.

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