COPPERAS COVE — Frenchy Brea, chairman of the United Clubs of Waco, was joined by more than 20 fellow motorcyclists in Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled Copperas Cove City Council meeting.
The otherwise laid back council chambers inside the Technology Center grew tense when Brea expressed “great disappointment” in the city’s police department.
The Copperas Cove Silverbacks, a motorcycle club among 70 that comprise United Clubs of Waco, and Killeen nonprofit We Leave No One Behind, held a bike washing fundraiser in support of veterans Sept. 17 at the nightclub TrackSide on Joe’s Road off U.S. Business Highway 190. They say the Copperas Cove Police Department had an over-the-top presence that dissuaded residents from attending the event.
“They staged their vehicles just off the property and created the appearance that something was going on at this establishment, causing several groups who were planning on attending this event to turn around,” Brea said. “This, in turn, took money away from the fundraiser.”
Squad cars lined around the property, Brea said, and eight police officers and several Department of Public Safety officers could be seen inside the club.
“Your police department is attempting to profile, harass and intimida
te motorcycle clubs,” Brea told the Copperas Cove City Council, mayor and interim city manager.
After Brea’s alotted five minutes during the public forum portion of the council meeting expired, James “Righteous” Norwood, president of We Leave No One Behind, echoed many of his sentiments.
We Leave No One Behind works with area police to connect veterans in crisis to mental health resources. In addition to free counseling, the group says it has provided hotel rooms, meals and transportation in certain circumstances.
Norwood, an active-duty major in the Army, said forming the organization was inspired when a police officer in 2015 contacted him after encountering a veteran in crisis while on call.
“There were things that were done and decisions that were made that negatively affected the motorcycle club’s ability to sponsor our charity,” Norwood said. “We provide person-to-person contact continually … the prejudice that was used against the individuals in the motorcycle club, who were doing something to benefit the community on a whole — is that a good thing to do? Should we allow preconceptions to affect our decision-making process?”
Silverbacks leader Justin Bryant said police presence on Sept. 17 began to ramp up around 6 p.m.
“They just kept showing up,” Bryant said. “They surrounded us in the bar. There was nothing for them to do.”
Sgt. Kevin Miller, CCPD spokesman, said the department assesses the necessary response in every situation, and feels the presence at the event held by the Silverbacks and We Leave No One Behind was appropriate.
“It is distressing that the presence of public safety officers at an event is viewed as being prejudiced or inappropriate when it was neither,” Miller said in a written statement. “CCPD and the City will continue to work proactively with organizations and events to provide an environment that’s safe for all involved.”
TrackSide staff could not be reached for comment.
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