A convoy consisting of thousands of bikers headed for a South Dakota rally will not be allowed to cross Cheyenne River Sioux checkpoints on their way to the event, according to a Native American spokesman.
The spokesman said Saturday that the band of travelers would be stopped on their way to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, in the name of preventing coronavirus from spreading any further.
The seven tribes that make up the Sioux Nation are now in a fight with federal and state officials, who deemed such checkpoints to be illegal.
A duty officer for the Cheyenne River Sioux told the Guardian Saturday that commercial and emergency vehicles will be allowed through the checkpoints, but nothing else. Some reservations have reportedly turned away bikers already.
Crowds had gathered for the start of the 10-day event on Friday, with many bikers adopting an attitude of defiance toward the COVID-19 restrictions that have drastically changed day-to-day life.
“Screw COVID,” read the design on one of the T-shirts being sold. “I went to Sturgis.”
Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, has supported the Sturgis rally, citing the fact that no infections were reported as a result of the event held by President Trump at Mt. Rushmore last month. She’s also avoided a mask mandate and highlighted the idea of personal responsibility.
For Arizona resident Stephen Sample, 66, who rode his bike to the event, the gathering is a break from the mostly monotonous routine of the last several months.
“I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to be cooped up all my life either,” he said.
Some of the crowd at Sturgis is composed of retirees and people in the age range deemed to be at risk from the coronavirus.
Business owners like bar owner Marsha Schmid, however, are trying to prevent her establishment from becoming a virus hotspot. She spaced out tables, offered hand sanitizer and scaled back the number of employees at the rally in an effort to help contain the disease.
Other residents wanted the rally to be postponed, but businesses insisted they needed the event to stave off any further economic ruin that occurred as a result of the shutdowns.