I spent last weekend at Too Broke for Sturgis, a motorcycle rally put on by ABATE of Arizona. ABATE is a non-profit motorcycle rights organization that does some really good stuff, and its members are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Pretty much all of the bikers who attend the rally each year are great people.
ABATE rents the whole venue and provides both hired and volunteer security. They limit access and strictly enforce a no underage drinking policy. There are no alcohol sales in the event at all. ABATE charges admission, so I had to pay to get in. So did everyone else. Well, almost everyone.
Like at most biker events, there were police everywhere. Sheriff’s deputies mostly stayed on the main road by the event, responding only when necessary, entering only when they had a legitimate reason. They didn’t run roughshod over the rights of the thousands of attendees. They were courteous, professional, and reasonable. They couldn’t have been more different from the thugs on the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s gang task force.
DPS’s “Gang Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission,” or “GITEM” as they cleverly call it, is apparently a “multi-agency statewide gang and illegal immigration task force program.” From what I can tell, it’s a group of people who desperately want to be a part of a gang but can’t quite cut it with any real ones. To compensate, they try to look like they think gang members should look, call every organization a gang whether it’s true or not, and stalk and harass members of the organizations they erroneously call gangs. Of all the law enforcement groups I can think of, they’re the quickest to throw a tantrum and cry foul when the people they target offend their fragile senses of well being.
The two GITEM officers I saw at last weekend’s event were a funny couple. One had short, dark brown hair and a long, scraggly beard. He wore sunglasses, accentuating what appeared to be an attempt to look like a young ZZ Top member. The other had a blond Mohawk. They weren’t there at the beginning of the event when ABATE met with the the sheriff and the fire department to open up communication and make sure everyone cooperates so it would be a fun, safe event. Instead, they showed up later in the day in a big silver truck. They’re too important for meetings, I suppose. They don’t need no stinkin’ cooperation. They’re too tough for that, I suppose.
They didn’t pay admission or even check in with ABATE’s organizers before entering. Despite the lack of any emergency or other decent reason, they ignored security and barged right in. They dangerously drove the wrong way around the main area of the event, against the flow of traffic, and then they started snooping around the camping area. They parked right in front of a motorcycle club and began taking pictures. When they were informed that it was a private event and asked to leave, they apparently chuckled and said “call the police!” They said they were “gathering intel” and would leave when they were damn well ready to leave. They were uniformly hostile to the organizers when approached. They blew up when told what they were doing was intrusive and interfering with paying attendees having a good time.
Their presence was intimidating. Their stalking and harassing were insulting and embarrassing to the people they targeted. What their infantile picture-taking could possibly accomplish is beyond me. Furthermore, they seemed to mostly target non-white attendees, and when they left, they drove by one club slowly, fully extending their arms and pointing at its members.
Had an ordinary person entered the event as they did, they would’ve been charged with trespass. Had an ordinary person intentionally driven the wrong way through a mostly-motorcycle event as they did, they might’ve been charged with endangerment. An ordinary person would suffer a stalking conviction for any number of things that DPS’s gang thugs did, and their pointing was the worst of it all. The intent was clear; they were letting each person know they were going to get them. It was aggressive and threatening, plain and clear. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a threatening or intimidating case with more obvious facts. They might as well have stuck up their thumbs to finish the sign and imitate a gun or just used the real thing. Had they been students, they would’ve been suspended, and had they been civilians doing it to cops, they would’ve been charged with assault.
Not being the one with the guns and the lifted truck and the power to arrest and charge, there wasn’t much I could do. Nobody except for the government thugs was doing anything illegal, so there won’t be any case for me to defend. The government thugs luckily didn’t physically harm anyone or do enough other damage to merit any sort of lawsuit against them. The things they did aren’t the sort of thing a private citizen, even a lawyer-private-citizen, can do much about. The police should’ve arrested them, but they were the police. In the end, they will probably get away with it.
I wish that every juror, judge, and prosecutor would get to experience what I experienced. When the thugs get all cleaned up for court and perjure themselves about how they respect the constitution and had some valid exception allowing them to do what they did, I would love for everyone to know first hand that they’re liars. When they charge so-called gang members with felonies for threatening gang signs or intimidating behavior, I would love for the people who ultimately decide to know first hand that they’re at best seeing the pot call the kettle black.
If people knew what GITEM was really doing, many still might not care. If people thought that GITEM could do it to them at their events, however, I have no doubt it would be dissolved tomorrow. I’d say that people need to experience the discrimination first hand, but I’d be kidding myself if I thought the government wasn’t smart enough to know who it can harass and who it can’t.
What we need is cultural shift away from the idea that the supposed ends of law enforcement somehow justify their means. Whatever the goal might be, it simply isn’t worth endangering the safety and happiness of thousands of peaceful people with tactics more befitting the Stasi than anything that should exist in a free country.
Filed under: Bikers' Rights, Government Rants · Tags: ABATE of Arizona, biker, campsite, coconino, gang, GITEM, government thugs, Inc., motorcycle club, rally, sheriff, task force, TBFS, Too Broke for Sturgis, truck