SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) – A motorcycle group is claiming the San Marcos Police Department may be profiling people wearing motorcycle-related insignia or colors.
Earlier in July, the police department told KXAN more motorcycle gangs have been making their way into downtown San Marcos. After learning of the increased presence, the San Marcos Downtown Association sent out an email to local businesses telling them to “keep an eye out and consider implementing strategies to make their space unwelcoming to this group.”
The email suggested businesses could enforce a dress code and post signs at the door to keep them away from the area.
On Tuesday, the founder of the Motorcycle Profiling Project (MPP) sent a letter to San Marcos Police Chief Chase Stapp stating his agency issued a “prejudicial recommendation” to the businesses regarding people who wear “motorcycle-related insignia or colors. These recommendations amount to coercive pressure from a government actor to implement policies of discrimination.”
“Now that they made this recommendation, they are discouraging potential customers from frequenting an establishment and that is one of my concerns. This could actually chill freedom of expression, people will not go to San Marcos wearing their motorcycle colors and expressing their associations because of that recommendation,” said the founder of MPP David Devereaux.
The letter continues by saying agents of the government cannot recommend any establishment to impose a dress code. MPP closes the letter by requesting SMPD to “cease and desist from any further discriminatory recommendations relating to motorcycle clubs and issue a statement informing the public.”
Devereaux said, “You can’t make a broad generalization about another organization that has hundreds or even thousands of people based on the actions of a few.” He says he understands if local businesses don’t want bikers in their stores, but it’s police making the recommendations that concerns him.
“When the police recommend that a private property discriminate, they are recommending something that they themselves could not do,” said Devereaux. “I’m OK with private owners implementing whatever dress code policies that they want to implement as long as they are not being encouraged or coerced by any state actor to do that.”
The city of San Marcos responded to the letter in a statement. “A San Marcos police officer gave well intentioned advice to some local business owners in response to incidents that took place at their establishments. While well meaning, some of that advice is not in line with the policies of the San Marcos Police Department,” the statement reads.
According to the city, the police department has a policy against profiling and discrimination. The statement continues, “We are sometimes called upon to assist in situations that may arise at a business, and in some cases to assist when a person is criminally trespassing.”