Riders say most of them are professionals with jobs and responsibilties that don’t involve crime.
A large gathering of motorcyclists prompted more than 30 deputies to respond to Sand Canyon and Soledad Canyon Roads Sunday afternoon (see related story here ), resulting in two dozen citations being issued, but no arrests.
Bikers say the deputies overreacted, painting them with a broad brush of guilt just because they wear the jackets and vests bearing their club colors or logos.
Sheriff’s officials say they are acting in response to community demand, responding to calls from the public for service, which sometimes includes rousting citizens on bikes.
The event was a fundraiser for the motorcycle advocacy group ABATE, which does educational outreach and lobbies state legislators for the rights of motorcycle riders across the country.
The group, which numbered between 300 and 500, depending on who’s doing the counting, held a peaceful gathering at the VFW Post 6885, which has a large amount of property capable of holding a big crowd in a sparsely-populated area of Sierra Highway near the intersection of Sand Canyon Road.
After a sheriff’s press release appeared on the KHTS website Wednesday morning, various riders – including many members of the Vagos club – called the station to share their side of the story.
“I think one of the mistakes we made was having members come across Sand Canyon Road instead of going around Vasquez Canyon Road,” said one of the club’s leaders, known as Sarge. He said that a nearby mobile home park may have been the source of some complaints.
“My wife and two teenage sons were at the event, helping the restaurant that catered the food,” said rider Bob Wiggins, who drove up for the event from Chino Hills. “The VFW is out in the middle of nowhere and the statement that they were disturbing the community’s solitude is a little out there.”
All of the callers said that they ride as a family activity, seeking the fellowship of the road over criminal activity, but admitted that a small minority of their members may live on the wrong side of the law.
Sheriff’s officials cite the criminal history of the Vagos gang, including many who claim innocence while they are being adjudicated for murder and conspiracy charges.
According to Associated Press, the Vagos were the subject of a Southern California sweep in 2006 that resulted in the arrest of 25 leaders and associates of the club on suspicion of firearms and drug charges. A more recent incident, one that happened in Orange County in 2008, was cited as reason for the deputies’ vigilance on Sunday. In that case, a bar fight involving several suspected rival motorcycle gang members escalated to a stabbing, for which 8 bikers are facing felony firearm, narcotic and assault charges.
The riders felt that accusing the large group for the misdeeds of a few was simply the wrong approach.
”It’s not any different than a large group of any other kind,” one member claimed. “You can have the same criminal activity with a large group of priests or lawyers or even cops, especially if there is alcohol involved.”
Some claimed that the response was a job security move on the part of the county deputies.
“The sheriffs overreact all the time and it’s a budgetary motivation,” the caller said. “Everybody is clamoring for money and everybody is trying to justify their positions.”
A common theme from the bikers who contacted KHTS was that the Vagos were not the only motorcycle club at the event, citing the presence of several Christian biker groups as well as the AA club Bill W.
“They want to label (club members) as bad guys, it’s easy to call people a gang. It’s just unfair. It would be like me saying all cops are bad, all cops are dirty. That would be unfair to say that,” said Wiggins..
“I saw no trouble,” he continued. “I wouldn’t take my kids and my wife to any place where I thought there would be any kind of trouble. I was treated with nothing but respect. I don’t know why, it’s silliness why you have to rile the public and scare them. Just silliness.