Waco gang fight killings cloud biker party in Texas capital

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 14, 2015 4:47 PM

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A party for 50,000 bikers held under heavy police presence in the Texas capital of Austin ended without major incident on Sunday, an event drawing extra scrutiny after a fight among rival motorcycle gangs in Waco last month left 9 people dead.

The Republic of Texas Rally, which began on Thursday and was celebrating its 20 anniversary, was the first major gathering of bikers in the state since the deadly fight in Waco, about 100 miles to the north, where gangs attacked each other with guns, knives, chains and clubs.

Bond hearings are set to start this week for about 120 bikers who have been in jail for nearly a month on organized crime charges related to capital murder. About 50 of those among the 170 initially arrested have been released but bond that was set at $1 million per person has been too high for most to pay.

Many leather-clad Republic of Texas attendees had sympathy for those in Waco, saying they were motorcycle enthusiasts like themselves swept up with a few criminal gang members.

Waco police said there was probable cause that led to the mass arrest of dangerous criminals. Lawyers for those still in jail have accused state authorities of unlawfully dragging their heels in processing the group.

"People are very upset at how authorities are taking so long to clear things up. It shouldn't take that long to figure out who is at fault and who isn't," said Gloria Cordova, 33, who attended one of the last events at the Austin rally, a Christian prayer service.

There was far more revelry than religion at the rally, which included music, alcohol, a parade through the capital, shredded tires, body part flashing and affixing fresh tattoos on already inked skin.

For a few bikers, it was too subdued.

"What happened in Waco ruined the party with all these cops hanging out," said Jesse Alvarez as he rode off.

Members of the Bandidos, one of the groups implicated in the Waco incident and also identified by the U.S. Justice Department as an outlaw motorcycle gang, rubbed shoulders with dentists, mechanics and others who took part in Austin rally.

"It was peaceful. That's what people wanted," said a man in a Bandidos vest who asked not to be named.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)