AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nearly 200,000 motorcyclists will roar into Austin this weekend for the Republic of Texas Biker Rally. After the deadly biker gang shootout in Waco, officials say security will be a top priority.
KXAN has been checking on the security preparations and learned at least one of those clubs that was involved in the Waco incident will also be here for the Austin rally. A high-ranking member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club tells us they attend the Republic of Texas Rally every year and that this year will be no different.
“We do not have problems with other motorcycle clubs,” local Bandido leader Jimmy Graves told KXAN the day after the Waco shootout. “People have that wrong.”
Graves claims events like the ROT Rally are not where club business is going to turn into more violence. ROT Rally founder and President Jerry Bragg says rally-goers need not worry about their safety at any of the Rally events.
“We have very good security out here,” explains Bragg. “Some you will see; some you may not. But come out in confidence that you will be safe.”
Bragg started the ROT Rally nearly 20 years ago after first seeking permission from the Bandidos. He says ROT Rally works with local law enforcement on safety plans every year.
“This year is no different,” says Bragg. “We’ve made our plans. We’re very happy with their focus. They’re 100 percent focused on safety, so we’re looking forward to a friendly, safe, happy event.”
The Austin Police Department says it made 71 arrests during last year’s downtown rally events, although not all were necessarily related to the rally. APD says there were no reports of “outlaw motorcycle gangs” or “gang activity” during the 2014 ROT Rally.
At the Travis County Expo Center, where the main parts of ROT Rally happen, off-duty Travis County Sheriff’s deputies are paid by ROT Rally organizers to handle security. Travis County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Roger Wade says they are “preparing for the worst but expecting the best.”
“We have not gotten any intelligence that makes us believe there will be anything but a safe event out there, but we always prepare,” he said.
We wanted to know from the City of Austin what basic security requirements it puts in place for an event the size of the ROT Rally, but we have not received an answer. We also tried for nearly a week to get someone at APD to explain how that Department is preparing, but Tuesday the commander in charge backed out of an interview, saying Chief Art Acevedo is planning to discuss ROT Rally security at a press conference on Wednesday.