13 , 2004
additional Wyoming State Highway patrolmen have joined the eleven normally
on patrol in the northeastern part of the state as part of their crackdown
on illegal activities associated with the 64th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle
Rally. In a state with only about a half-million people and only a couple
of hundred patrolmen, it is a major operation.
This is the fourth year for the Cowboy State to step up its patrols, as
the Sturgis Rally expands to include more of Wyoming, including such towns
as Sundance, Hulett, and even Gillette, a city of about 25,000 more than
90 miles from Sturgis. Several of these cities have special events to
host visiting bikers, including races, special feasts, and rides. Devils
Tower is second only to Mount Rushmore as a national park site frequented
by the riders of Harleys, Hondas, and Victory cycles.
Even though the State Patrol has said they want to know if troopers go
too far in enforcing the law, there are still tales of cars and bikes
being stopped and torn apart as troopers and the local sheriffs search
for drugs and other contraband, according to people interviewed by KOTA
TV-Radio of Rapid City (SD) in a newscast aired on Thursday, August 12th.
South Dakota State Patrol officers are generally more well-known for their
piratical ways with bikers and other rally-goers, and the State of South
Dakota reaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and forfeiture
of bikes and other property repurchased by the luckless people targeted
by them. In past years, even state legislators have been caught in drug
checkpoints set up on South Dakota highways. Now, it appears that Wyoming
is following the lead of its more authoritarian neighbor.
In Sturgis itself, its police force is increased, perhaps as much as ten
times, by hiring of police officers and sheriffs officers from dozens
of cities and counties in eastern South Dakota and elsewhere. These people
are taking their vacations to play cop and ride in their own motorcycle
gangs in the Rally, and it not an uncommon sight in the packed city to
see a half-dozen cops in a line walking down a street or alley,ogling
biker women, and pushing aside other rally-goers, all in hometown uniforms
as distinctive as biker gang colors, and behaving much as their opposites
on the "other side of the law" do.
Although there have been four deaths from what is being reported as a
larger rally than seen in the last couple of years, there have been none
due to speeding in Wyoming so far this year. Most traffic fatalities associated
with the rally occur on winding mountain roads in the Black Hills themselves,
as riders fail to take the sharp turns into account. One accident this
year on a bike race track in Sturgis itself caused the rider's death.
- From KOTA, KLMP, and other news reports.
(c) 2004 Nathan A Barton
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