I believe the constitution is for EVERY American citizen
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -
In a federal civil rights lawsuit filed Monday, the Mongols, Bandidos, Vagos and Stray Cats Motorcycle Clubs claim they were unlawfully targeted and harassed by the Las Vegas Metropolitan and North Las Vegas police departments.
"The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is trying to make it so that the motorcyclists that I represent can not gather," said Stephen Stubbs, the attorney that filed the suit on behalf of the clubs.
"We've had contracts with major hotels and casinos and the week of or days before they've canceled due to the pressure of the police department actually threatening them," said Guido, President of the Southern Nevada Confederation of Clubs, who would only give his first name.
Naming six separate incidents and 15 claims for relief, the suit is asking for around $12 million in damages for the 80 or so plaintiffs.
"We want to make sure that these motorcyclists can simply have their parties, have their events and not be harassed by police," Stubbs told FOX5.
In one piece of evidence, Stubbs shows a letter from Metro to Scoundrels Pub, on South Decatur, where Sheriff Doug Gillespie threatens to revoke their liquor license if they serve to Vagos club members.
It's a similar story with others hotels and bars involving the different clubs, including one incident naming the North Las Vegas Police Department's treatment of the Stray Cats club.
"The Nevada Supreme Court has already ruled 10 years ago that that's unconstitutional," Stubbs said.
Boulder City Police were not named in the suit.
This past weekend the Mongols' club was allowed to hold their annual meeting there, although under tight police observation.
While the event should have brought in extra business, some, like the Coffee Cup, felt all the police scared many away.
"We have bikers every weekend all the time, but we didn't have our normal bikers in, I think it was just the police presence was heavy," said Terry Stevens, a manager at the Coffee Cup.
Despite the poor reputation motorcycle clubs receive, Stubbs said police have been over stepping their authority.
"My clients are not doing anything wrong, and they are being harassed by really officers that are going way beyond what they're allowed to do by the constitution," Stubbs said.
The party ended Saturday night.
The last of the motorcycles hit the highway Sunday afternoon.
And on Monday, Boulder City got a chance to reflect on the aftermath of being the chosen site for the Mongols Motorcycle Club's three-day national meeting.
The reviews are as varied as the opinions on the controversial motorcycle club itself. Law enforcement says the weekend went smoothly because of a large police presence, but a spokesman for the club says the trouble-free fun was ruined by officers who overstepped their bounds.
"I couldn't have asked for a better outcome," Boulder City Police Chief Thomas Finn said Monday. "There were no felony arrests, no crimes committed that we are aware of at this time, no citizens or visitors were hurt."
Police estimated 250 bikers attended the gathering in Boulder City. They quickly met a police presence of nearly the same size. For the past month, Finn had been requesting help to deal with the Mongols, a group that has a history of violence in the Las Vegas area, including fights with rival club, the Hells Angels. The two groups engaged in a fatal clash in a Laughlin casino in 2002 and brawled at a Las Vegas wedding chapel in 2008.
The chief of police on Monday released details about the outside agencies that helped his small staff. Assisting groups included the Metropolitan Police Department, North Las Vegas police, Henderson police, the Nevada Highway Patrol, California Highway Patrol, Arizona Highway Patrol, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.
Finn said the agencies did not charge Boulder City for their services. The cost will be absorbed by the individual entities.
Police presence peaked Saturday evening at 150 to 200 officers, Finn said. During the three days, officers issued approximately 20 tickets to Mongols for minor violations, such as failing to use turn signals and improper equipment.
One Mongol was arrested after providing false information to the police. He was later released, Finn said. There was no interaction between the Hells Angels and the Mongols while the club was in town.
"They came and they went and good riddance," Finn said. "I hope they never come back."
Stephen Stubbs, the legal counsel for the Mongols in Nevada, was not as pleased Monday.
Stubbs assisted the Mongols in meeting with law enforcement and town officials to answer any questions about the club coming to town. He appeared with Mongols members at a Boulder City town hall meeting to address community concerns. During the buildup to the event, Stubbs insisted the meeting was a "family-reunion-type event." Still, he felt his clients were targeted unfairly.
"The Mongols did everything they promised to do," Stubbs said. "Everything. Unfortunately, (law enforcement) did not."
Stubbs said police officers broke an agreement established with the Mongols before the event by coming into the hotel parking lots during the Mongols' parties. He called some of the tickets "bogus," including one he received for jaywalking. Stubbs said police harassment got to the point where many Mongols decided to stay inside their hotel rooms - a decision he thinks decreased the amount of money spent at downtown businesses.
Boulder City Chamber of Commerce CEO Jill Lagan confirmed that three of the business owners she talked to reported decreased sales.
"It was anticipated that this would be a wonderful weekend and there would be a positive economic impact," she said. "That was not what came to fruition based on my informal survey."
Finn dismissed concerns that the police force he assembled might have been too big or too empowered. He said he would happily take overprotection over leaving the community vulnerable.
"I get very disheartened by the naiveté of some people who say, 'Well there were too many cops in town. Nothing happened,' " Finn said. "Well of course nothing happened. Because there were so many cops in town."
See Votes by State
News & Politics