Motorcycle Clubs Claim Profiling In California

Say that they are good people and should not be targeted for ‘undue’ law enforcement attention

OROVILLE, Calif. — While admitting many of them deliberately foster a “bad boy” persona, members of several motorcycle clubs went before the Butte County Board of Supervisors today to say they don’t deserve to be treated as criminals, and resent it.

With their Harley-Davidson motorcycles parked in front of the county Administration Building, and wearing vests declaring themselves to be “Americans,” “Bishops,” “Just Brothers” and others, they came before the supervisors Tuesday to say they are good people and shouldn’t be targeted for undue law enforcement attention.

Dave Gilbert, 71, president of the United Bikers of Butte County, said he rides with the Just Brothers, which he firmly said is not a gang.

He said several motorcycle clubs in Butte County do rides that are fundraisers for a host of charities.

“I am not a gang guy. I’ve never been arrested in my life. I’m a good guy,” said Gilbert.

He and the others spoke during the public comment section of the meeting, when people can talk on any topic not on the agenda. The board cannot not take any action on what was said.

Gilbert and his colleagues said they find themselves being stopped by deputies and other law enforcement who want to take their pictures, particularly pictures of their tattoos and the bike’s license plates.

He went on to say he had talked to Butte County Sheriff Jerry Smith about the situation and he was “very nice.”

Bonnie Salmon, who owns Scooters Cafe on Highway 70 with her husband, Dan, said in the last month she has seen officers stop her clients in the cafe’s parking lot.

She said the riders were being “profiled.” She said the bike riders were being asked about their tattoos and patches.

Her husband said their business has dropped off since officers stopped bike riders at the cafe.

Bill McPhillips, an attorney from Canoga Park, said he was there representing the clubs. He said motorcycle clubs are places where a segment of “blue collar workers” tend to congregate.

“They have a certain style. They are easy to be picked out. They are being singled out because of the way they chose to express themselves. That is completely un-American,” said the attorney.

“It is true, bikers like to cultivate the ‘bad boy’ image, but you’ve got to know they are your neighbors,” said McPhillips.

The attorney and several of the bikers said the effort to come to the board had begun a dialogue that should lead to greater understanding.

Paradise Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi said he belongs to a cycle club that is affiliated with his church.

Supervisor Steve Lambert, who chairs the board, said “I think a bridge has been built here.”

Sheriff Smith, who was present during the presentation, said outside the meeting, “We’re not harassing anybody.”

He said his staff has noted an upswing in the number of people on motorcycles wearing club colors that “we can’t account for.”

Smith said there has been some “misconceptions, misunderstandings perhaps,” and he hoped his office and the club members can come to some common ground.

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