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Bikers make peaceful presence

November 8, 2009

Bikers make peaceful presence

KINGMAN – As a state highway patrol helicopter circled low over head, bikers from 40 motorcycle clubs throughout Arizona met Saturday in Kingman.

The meeting held Saturday at the American Legion post in Kingman was planned a year ago and is held throughout Arizona by the Arizona Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, alternating between Arizona cities. Bullhead City will host a meeting Nov. 7, 2010.

Saturday’s meeting was to be held in Fort Mohave but moved to Kingman for a planned ride past four Kingman establishments, which recently adopted a no colors policy. Colors are patches on a vest that identifies a biker’s motorcycle club.

An officer from the state gang task force was parked across the street from the American Legion post, taking photos of the bikers. Police cars from Bullhead City and Kingman and from the Arizona Department of Public Safety drove by, making the law enforcement presence felt. About 500 to 600 bikers assembled after the meeting on a ride past the four bars, which included Chuy’s Broiler, Cerbat Lanes, Sportsman Bar and Mad Dog’s in Kingman.

ACMC advocates for biker rights and meets twice a month, discussing issues like helmet or emission laws or pushing for biker-friendly legislation. There are about 40 clubs in the state, according to Dan Balentine, who is president of the Desert Road Riders Motorcycle Club in Fort Mohave as well as the secretary for the ACMC.

Balentine said that ACMC is in the process of hiring a third lobbyist to work on the no colors policy initiated by some bars and restaurants in Kingman.

One ACMC lobbyist, going by the name of Skypilot, is based at the state capital in Phoenix and works with the legislators while a second lobbyist work on federal issues in Washington, D.C. Skypilot reported that he is talking with state legislators on motorcycle issues such as right of ways, emissions, discrimination by law enforcement, correctly fastening license plates and extended yellow lights.

Balentine cautioned bikers during the meeting to obey all traffic laws when riding past the four bars, not to give law enforcement an excuse to paint a negative picture of bikers.

ACMC‘s president Ray “Still Ray” Fitzgerald, said the object is to draw attention to the way the gang task force illegally forces bars to adopt the no colors policy or face having their liquor licenses pulled.

One biker spoke of the Phoenix Police Department closing the gates of a cemetery, keeping bikers from attending several memorials.

DPS officers also reportedly pulled over several Hells Angels traveling to the meeting Saturday morning on Interstate 40 about 18 miles east of Kingman and arrested Sonny Barger, one of the founders of the club. Barger, 72, was getting off his bike when he was arrested for going several miles over the speed limit. Other Hells Angels were also ticketed, according to a club member.

Balentine said ACMC’s mission statement is to educate the public of the positive aspects of motorcycle clubs and lawfully oppose intrusion to biker rights. He previously said he has had no problems wearing his colors in bars, restaurants, even casinos in the Bullhead City and Mohave Valley area. Wearing his colors in the Laughlin casinos has also not been an issue, even after the infamous 2002 shooting between two rival motorcycle clubs during the Laughlin River Run.

Especially after the 2002 Laughlin shooting, Balentine said, there has been unfair stereotyping that all bikers who wear colors are dangerous outlaws looking to cause trouble. At the meeting were members from a Christian motorcycle club and one member of a club representing firefighters and paramedics.

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