Here in Grande Prairie Alberta, where I live, we have a rough time as a motorcycle community.
We have one particular police officer who seems to just hate everyone on a bike. He's got an aggressive and disturbing way of approaching situations that seems to get people's blood boiling.
His superiors however, don't view him that way.
We live in a city with a bylaw wherein "gang clothing" is not allowed on city property.
Add to that the liquor laws that mirror each other in most provinces regarding no "gang" clothing and you pretty much have a place where it is tough on riders to host anything without special attention and focus being put on us.
This has been a historical situation in Grande Prairie going back as far as at least 1985, the first time I lived here. We have yet to have, that I am aware of, a period where the motorcycle community, the police and city could see eye to eye on much of anything.
See my blog post from 2009:
The RCMP view their colours and their "support gear" as "gang clothing".
The RCMP hold the strings to permits, licenses etc. because without their blessing, its pretty hard to get a license.
The fine for allowing "gang clothing" in a licensed premises is steep and repeat offenders can loose their liquor license. The logic behind the liquor law is that rival gang members won't be able to easily identify each other and that this law should reduce the risk to citizens regarding drunken brawls and fights that can get out of hand.
The R.C.M.P. do not provide business owners with a list or a series of images of what is deemed to be "gang colours".
Now for those who don't understand how this is divisive please understand this; "support gear" is not illegal to sell, wear or own, however, the RCMP view it as gang clothing and therefore, it is covered under the bylaw.
Superintendent Ferguson here in Grande Prairie, expressed in a phone meeting with him and myself on behalf of ANAVETS for the June Poker Run and Parade that "support gear" is not allowed to be sold or worn on city property.
It's not illegal, to wear three piece patches with a diamond on public property either (like roadways and sidewalks). However, they, the City of Grande Prairie and the RCMP made it illegal to wear on city property through the use of the petty trespass act and their "Gang Clothing" Policy. Same applies to "support gear".
So event coordinators here end up having to act as fashion police.
Back in April, a Grande Prairie Motorcycle Charity Group had a swap meet.
It was held at Revolution Place which is a city owned event venue.
All over the building it states no "Gang Clothing" Allowed. (See photo above)
(The city courted the April event and the Motorcycle & Tattoo Fest in June, offering greatly reduced rental pricing etc.)If a person of authority for the establishment (Revolution Place city staff in this case) calls the police regarding what they view as an infraction of the bylaw or the vendors contract, then the police have an obligation to attend.
That weekend, all of the clubs, one percent or otherwise, who showed up to run booths etc did not wear their colours/cuts.
The city staff that run Revolution Place, called the police because support gear for a 1% club was being sold. Sadly, the officer who responded is one who has problems with riders and that sentiment is wholeheartedly reciprocated by the riding community.
There were some very nasty things that transpired and children witnessed these things. One gentleman had this cop attempt to confiscate merchandise that he purchased and another was told to take off his red & white Santa Claus tee shirt because it was red & white!
It was such a divisive and offensive scene that people unanimously and autonomously decided they did not want to be a part of the drama and decided they wouldn't support events at Revolution Place.
According to Superintendent Ferguson, there is only one banned club present in Grande Prairie and they are not welcome on city property and that was verified by at least one person affiliated with the club.
|Pen Cam - London Drugs ($50)|
This RCMP officer should have conducted himself far differently than he did, he should have been less aggressive and less disturbing. He escalated things instead of calming them, from what I witnessed. (I assert again - People really need to start wearing body cameras when dealing with this particular individual.)
After what transpired at Revolution Place on the April 23rd weekend, I know Peter, the show host of WWM&T Fest in June, looked into other venues, but could not find one that offered what was needed on that weekend. He already had bands and vendors booked.
The question for Peter eventually became one of whether to cancel and loose the deposit monies or take a chance that things would smooth out.
The ANAVETS Branch #389 had decided to work with Peter long before the April event that caused such a stir. The ANAVETS hosted the 50/50 draws for him, and ANAVETS turned over $10 for every poker card hand sold allowing the attendees to take part in the run and the show. In return Peter helped them with the sound equipment and a few tables and chairs for the poker run.
Because we were all concerned about how this community was going to react - and please understand that I am not siding with Revolution Place - I would NEVER host an event there, I think their staff are rude and condescending. I am not siding with the cops. I am however stating that I feel the host of the April event should have known that support gear is considered by the RCMP as a sign of gang support/affiliation and that someone would end up calling the cops. It was a risky chance to take that ended up costing a lot more than most would realize.
The April event host told me that their organization was told one thing by the venue staff and then something very different transpired. Bureaucrats are bureaucrats. You can't take their word for anything - you need to get everything they say in writing. It's call Cover YOUR ASS.
The blow back over what transpired ended up hurting the Wild West Motorcycle & Tattoo Fest promoter and all of the vendors. It hurt the Afghanistan Monument Project Poker Run & ANAVETS but to a much lesser degree than the vendors and show host, as our costs were covered by our sponsors.
Peter advertised his event steady on the radio, we pushed on Facebook and through posters and visits to the cruise nights at the A & W and by attending the Alliance Church car show and talking to everyone there that we could.
We had hoped that riders would still support these two events in spite of the venue and what had taken place previously.
Well, that didn't turn out to be the case.
Through a number of text and private messages I learned that many riding clubs and individuals had decided to "boycott" Revolution Place. Perhaps that's not the right term, but it's about as appropriate a one as I can think of because the results were the same as if a boycott had been called for.
Now the interesting thing is that these decisions were made randomly, individually, no meeting, no joint decision. Does that tell you anything about how strongly people felt about what they witnessed and experienced?
In effect, these people all decided the same thing, over the same incident without conferring with each other. Screw the drama at Revolution Place, we don't need it, won't take it.
All of the vendors, some who travelled 7 and 8 hours to get here - well they took a beating...it was harsh. There were 31 people at the dance, so that didn't even cover the hotel rooms for the band.
ANAVETS had taken extreme measures to prevent another disaster.
We talked to the RCMP Superintendent, and I even went to Revolution Place and educated the women that work there on what patches might or might not show up. We did everything we could to pave the way for a more pleasant experience.
Sadly the women who run Revolution Place are very difficult to communicate with, at least that was my experience with them. I found them to be very rude and very condescending and if I'd have had it my way we would have held everything at ANAVETS but we had committed to helping Peter and so we did our best...
We had all sorts of challenges in dealing with city bureaucrats for our parade permits, the License Centre and the AGLC in getting the licenses for the poker run and 50/50's as mis communications abounded. At the end of the day we got the permits - and it ended up OK, but it was a hell of a road to get there.
I have lodged a complaint with the Community Growth director Koji Miyaji of the City regarding our experiences with Revolution Place's staff.
I also have a question for the City of Grande Prairie and that is about their divisive and I feel discriminatory bylaw:
"Why are you bothering to court motorcycle events at your venue given the bylaw and the issues of what is legal and illegal in the eyes of the city staff and RCMP?"
The decisions made by many have been divisive and hurtful to motorcyclists in this community.
The city should not be courting motorcycle events.
The event host of the first show in April should not have had their event on city property if they wanted to allow the sale of support gear. Even though they were promised it was ok by a city staffer, since nothing was in writing, they should have erred on the side of caution and really questions the promise.
The police officer in question should have approached things in a much different manner
The Motorcycle & Tattoo host should have postponed his show until he could locate a friendlier venue.
ANAVETS should have hosted their run from the ANAVETS Club House.
It's sad that when you look at what went right, what went wrong, hindsight is after all 20/20 vision.
Here in Grande Prairie, it seems like you can't win for loosing.
The sad fact of the matter is that the city of Grande Prairie does not offer one a whole ton of options when it comes to venues to host motorcycle events at.
- Evergreen Park is expensive and out of town. That proves to be a barrier to attendance.
- The D Coy Armouries is small and has other limitations like no kitchen.
- The other major hockey arenas etc are all very expensive and as they are usually used for sporting events tend to be very booked up and they are also owned by the city.
- Hotels that have ballrooms in this town also tend to be expensive and again pose unique restrictions with regards to parking, liquor and fire regulations.
- If you take the show to a smaller town like Wembley where things are a little less expensive and restrictive, people complain it's too far out of their way.
- And don't ask for a liquor license or have the function in a licensed establishment either - the liquor law says "gang clothing" is not allowed.
I look forward to a day when all motorcyclists are treated like Canadian Citizens and allowed to exercise their rights and freedoms under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law
If you are blessed enough to be riding today, please remember to ride like everyone is blind and cannot see you.
Belt Drive Betty,
Editor & Rider
Belt Drive Betty,
Editor & Rider