While not going into detail, the suggestion that riders in the recent motorcycle awareness parade not wear colors came from information about an outlaw biker possibly threatening violence, Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters said Tuesday.
The police department had been receiving credible intelligence from reputable sources about one unnamed outlaw motorcycle gang intending to set up a chapter in Casper, and that a rival gang wanted a territorial dispute, McPheeters told the Casper City Council work session.
“I didn’t want to make parade a target,” he said.
Because of the intelligence, McPheeters asked some parade organizers to keep the parade about motorcycle safety and not about specific organizations — and the colors and insignia that identify those organizations. “It was not a demand, it was a simple request.”
Unfortunately, the simple request blew up on social media, including the department’s own website, with accusations that the police department wanted to suppress free speech and become hostile to motorcycle riders, McPheeters said. “They chose to make this Into what it was not.”
Despite immediate denials from the department that it was banning colors, some bikers again raised the issue at last week’s regular council meeting.
Parade organizers also questioned the need for insurance, with some saying that was a new request, and that the individual bikers are already insured.
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City Manager Carter Napier said insurance has always been required for parades.
A representative from the Wyoming Association of Risk Management said even if bikers are insured, there is no guarantee that an individual rider would have adequate insurance to cover for an accident.
Some bikers also balked at proposed changes to the route that began at the east Casper Walmart, traveled west on Second Street and ended at the Harley Davidson store on North Glenn Road.
“We were told to expect 400 bikers,” McPheeters said “We have a duty to protect. We are providing them a venue.”
The parade cost the police department $1,500, said Sgt. Jeff Bullard, who oversees the department’s traffic division.
The route was 5.3 miles, and the permit application required blocking 16 major intersections, Bullard said. Earlier parade routes were more than 10 miles, and they were set up long before the growth on Casper’s east side, he added.
Bullard proposed the parade start at Sunrise Shopping Center, head north on Poplar Street and end at the Harley store.
But parade organizers said that wouldn’t be possible because they”d already promoted the route, he said.
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The police escort for the May 4 parade required blocking numerous intersections, including East Second Street and Wyoming Boulevard, which is the busiest intersection in the state.
Blocking that intersection for more than six minutes backed up traffic in all directions, and at least one motorist tried to drive around the traffic or join the parade, which could have caused an accident.
After the last biker passed through that intersection, officers had to rush to the next intersection on the route to control that traffic, Bullard said.
Looking forward, he said he’s already met with organizers to plan next year’s parade.