Redmond police and Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies shut down the Run to the Cascades Motorcycle Rally at the county fairgrounds Saturday evening after a large group from the Mongols motorcycle club arrived and threatened violence if members of the Hells Angels refused to leave immediately, police said.
Officers entered the fairgrounds and watched as the Hells Angels indeed packed up and left, according to police. But witnesses also told officers that Hells Angels members said they planned to return with more people “to settle the dispute,” according to Redmond police Capt. Brian McNaughton.
McNaughton said police had “received information that acts of potential violence” were expected at the second annual rally, which was well into its second day and had attracted hundreds of motorcyclists from around the region for a variety of concerts, events and activities focused on the themes of remembering those lost in 9/11 and celebrating American freedom.
And while things had been fairly peaceful, for the most part, Redmond police also said there had been two arrests, one in an incident Friday night – a reported dispute involving a knife – that led to a La Pine man’s arrest, and another arrest early Saturday after a Keizer man allegedly fired a gun at the fairgrounds.
Around 5 p.m. Saturday, McNaughton said, the large Mongols group approached the Hells Angels members already at the event – the club had a booth there – and “demanded the Hells Angels group leave immediately.”
“Witnesses reported the Mongols group threatened violence if the Hells Angels group was not gone within 15 minutes,” McNaughton said. “Witnesses reported weapons were brandished.”
Word of that confrontation prompted police and sheriff’s deputies to enter the fairgrounds and stand by while the Hells Angels group packed up and left.
However, “witnesses reported the Hells Angels group intended to return with more people to settle the dispute,” McNaughton said in a news release issued late Saturday night.
At that point, sheriff’s deputies and police contacted fairgrounds Director Dan Despotpulos “and strongly recommended the event be closed in order to protect public safety,” McNaughton said.
“The fair director agreed the safety of citizens was our highest priority and closed the event,” with the assistance of Redmond officers, sheriff’s deputies, Bend police and Oregon State Police, the captain said.
The move also scrubbed a closing-night concert by the classic rock group Foghat.
“The two motorcycle clubs, Hells Angels and Mongols, have a history of very violent encounters,” McNaughton said. “It is the intent of the officials involved to assure our citizens’ safety, and this is always the top priority in any decision of this nature.”
According to a story early last year in the L.A. Weekly, “A blood feud between the Mongol Nation Motorcycle Club and the Hells Angels has not abated since 'Operation Black Rain' in 2008, in which 1,000 local cops, feds and deputized Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms agents arrested 60 members of the Mongol MC in five states.”
Aaron Myhra, the event organizer, said Sunday, "We are extremely disappointed. We're heartfelt sorry for people who did not get a chance to finish this event. The event was going great."
He said he was going to speak to legal counsel before making a more formal statement in coming days.
As for the earlier Redmond incidents, around 9:30 p.m. Friday, police responded to a reported dispute involving a knife at the rally, said Lt. Nathan Garibay.
Officers and deputies investigated the dispute and subsequently arrested Anthony Moon, 40, of La Pine, who was taken to the county jail in Bend on charges of menacing and disorderly conduct.
Shortly before 4 a.m. Saturday, police responded to a report of an armed man who had fired a handgun at the fairgrounds, Garibay said.
Officers arrived and detained a man later identified as Richard Bay, 53, of Keizer. He was arrested on a charge of unlawful use of a weapon and lodged at the Bend jail.
Garibay said police believe several people, not yet identified, witnessed that incident and asked that they come forward with any information, contacted Redmond police at (541) 504-3400 or through the county’s non-emergency dispatch number, (541) 693-6911.
The lieutenant said Redmond police, sheriff’s deputies and other police had “strived to maintain a safe and peaceful event for all community members."
After the surprise closure announcement, there were reports that some people who had camped out at the campground were reluctant to leave, and some were being warned they could face trespassing charges if they refused to go.
The quick closure also caught some tattoo artists in the South Sisters Room in mid-tattoo, needing to complete their work and load up to leave. Others were still arriving for the concert, unaware of the late cancellation.
The closure also prompted a flood of angry comments at KTVZ.COM and on NewsChannel 21's Facebook page from rally participants and would-be concertgoers upset with the decision.
The rally's Website listed the event's dates as Sept. 7-8, and the only items on the Sunday schedule were a morning "bike blessing" and church services from 8-9 a.m.