Biker Day At The Colorado Capitol
By Tim Anderson
The first-ever Biker Day At The Capitol in Denver April 14, 2011, was by all accounts, a resounding success.
The event sponsored by the Coalition Of Independent Riders, Us Defenders, and the Colorado Confederation Of Clubs drew about 150 people and some 70 motorcycles to the State capitol building in downtown Denver for what is best described as a meet-and-greet with state legislators.
“It came off better than I expected,” said Colorado COIR Commander Deb “Tiger” Chandler, who largely organized the event. “Especially since it was a work day, and we had pretty crappy weather. I was real pleased with the way things turned out.”
Weather was a concern, as a few inches of wet spring snow threatened to derail the ride to the capitol from south Denver. In fact, several groups of riders bailed out, even with the snow melting away quickly, leaving only a hardcore group to make the putt through the cold to the capitol.
But it was worth the trip.
“The legislators who came outside to join us—both Democrat and Republican-- had a great time and were really impressed, especially because of the bad weather,” Chandler said. “There was a lot of buzz when the bikes started rolling up, and there were even a few legislators who lamented the fact that they couldn’t come out to be a part of what we were doing.”
As it was, State Senators Lundberg and Mitchell joined Representatives Holbert, Sonnenberg, Wilson, Miklosi, Priola, and Ramierz on the West Steps to join the chilled but enthusiastic leather-bundled crowd.
“This is a historic day,” Wiz told the assembled crowd. “This the day that 44 of the motorcycle clubs here in Colorado rode together in unity. This is the day that the Coalition Of Independent Riders stood up and rode with us. And every one of you here today understand that you were a part of that history.”
“We brought the bikers to the capitol to educate them that this is their house, “ Chandler explained. “These are their people to work with—that these people do work for them.”
“This was not a protest of any kind,” explained US Defenders Colorado Commander, Wiz. ”It was never intended to be a protest. This was simply a way for us to come to the capitol as a group, meet some of our legislators, and let them know we’re interested in what’s going on in the Legislature and that we intend to be involved. This is an educational day for us, and hopefully for the legislators as well.”
That point was not lost on the legislators who came out, if fact, it was appreciated.
“Take a moment and talk to us,” said Representative Jerry Sonnenberg. “If you have concerns, we need to hear you. If we don’t hear from you, we don’t think there’s a problem.”
“Keep an eye on what’s going on with legislation,” said Representative Robert Ramirez. “This is your house…this is our house. You come talk to us any time. You have every right to be here. I want to thank you guys for coming down here and showing the world that it doesn’t matter what you got on your jacket, what matters is you’re American and you’re standing up for your rights.”
Senator Shawn Mitchell directly addressed the biker mindset.
“I think there are two kind of Americans…two kinds of people,” Mitchell said. “One would walk into a crowd like we’re seeing here today and would start looking around for protection. Another would walk into this crowd and realized they are standing with the protectors. The protectors of the American dream, the protectors of the freedom of our way of life, the freedom to choose your path, to live the way you want. To do things that are fun, bold, and sometimes risky. To not ask permission beforehand, and to not apologize afterword.”
The assembled crowd erupted with cheers and applause.
Confederation and Colorado AIM Attorney Wade Eldridge asked why it is that, “…someone can ask us to leave a business because of the expression displayed on our back? We want that to stop.”
Representative Joe Miklosi had an answer for him.
I was invited to be here by one of my constituents, Ray Hoskins—or Nighttrain,” Miklosi said. “I’ve really enjoyed meeting with him. So much so that he and I are going to work on an equal access law.”
After the gather in on the steps, the participating legislators were presented with honorary memberships in COIR, something that all of them took great pride in.
“Afterwards I was in the capitol and Chis Holbert and Jerry Sonnenberg both dragged me into their offices show me they had the plaques we gave them hanging already,” Chandler said. And they weren’t just hanging, they were prominently displayed. Every one of them hung those up right away. They were really impressed with what we did, and I think there were some legislators who wished they’d have been a part of it.”
The only potential hitch in the day wasn’t even a hitch. As might have been expected, law enforcement was prepared, and perhaps even expected, the worst. But the issue was a non-starter.
“Law enforcement surprised me, especially after some of the roadblocks that were thrown up in the planning stages,” Wiz said. I think they came to an understanding of what we are and what we can be. The State Patrol Legislative Liaison Officer told me he learned a lot. He told me this wasn’t what he expected and that ‘We’ve got a long ways to go in understanding each other.’ I think we’re at a starting point for a new understanding.”
“I think we had a good turnout,” Diablo said. “The weather didn’t actually cooperate with us, we had a little snow this morning, but we still got most of the clubs out with us, and we had representatives from the house and the senate here. I think we had an excellent turnout, more than we even expected from our legislators. It was a good day, a great start, and I think this going to continue to grow from here on out.”
“Our mission was to show our legislators that we care about issues that affect our lifestyle on every level, not just motorcycle issues,” Wiz explained. “I think we did that we set the stage for future involvement. Now they all know we’re not just Tiger coming down to the capitol taking notes every week. They understand we have numbers, organization, intelligence and desire to be a part of the process.”
“This was positive on every level,” Chandler said. “Now that we’ve gotten over the first time hurdles, it will only be easier o keep doing this every year…and we’re going to.”