As thousands of motorcyclists roll into Galveston for the weekend’s massive Lone Star Rally, it appears some bikers are being watched rather closely.

Throughout the day Friday, radio traffic on local police channels squawked with descriptions of colors displayed by groups of people riding toward the island and the size of the groups arriving.

The speakers, who could not be identified on the scanners, regularly described the movements of people they had marked as possible members of what law enforcement considers to be outlaw motorcycle clubs.

“There’s two Bandidos center-lane coming up to the Texas City Wye,” a voice on the scanner said at 12:39 p.m., before noting there was “no PC,” or probable cause, to stop them.

Throughout the afternoon, more sightings came.

There were “red and yellow supporters” driving by the Buc-ee’s in Texas City, a reference to colors of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club. Another rider had an “OMC,” or outlaw motorcycle club, sticker on a helmet.

The eyes extended past the county line. On at least one occasion, Harris County deputies warned the Galveston watchers about a large group coming from The Woodlands.

It’s no secret nor surprise that motorcycle clubs are at the rally.

The Bandidos Motorcycle Club, one of the most well-known motorcycle clubs in the world, annually sets up tents alongside other vendors during the four-day festival. The club was founded in San Leon in 1966, but now has chapters around the world.

While the Bandidos publicly call themselves a club, state authorities often refer to the group as a criminal gang.

Which agency or agencies were doing the monitoring wasn’t clear Friday.

Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said he didn’t know of any specific efforts to track gangs or motorcycle clubs deemed to be outlaws in the county for the rally. A Galveston Police Department spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, which oversees the state highway patrol, the Texas Rangers and the Texas Violent Gang Task Force, said in a statement that it does not typically comment on security measures around large events.

The agency was “aware of possible motorcycle gang activity in and around the Galveston area this weekend,” according to the statement.

“We will continue to work closely with our partners throughout the rally and monitor suspicious activity as it becomes known to us,” agency spokesman Lt. Craig Cummings said.

Over the past year, the public safety department has made clear it believes motorcycle gangs pose a threat to public safety in Texas. In 2018, the agency included motorcycle gangs in an assessment of the state’s gang threats.

The report claims motorcycle gangs were continuing to challenge the Bandidos for dominance. The report explicitly refers to Bandidos as a gang, not a club. It points to instances of club leaders being arrested on racketeering and drug distribution charges and other criminal activities.

The gang’s territory was being challenged by other groups after a deadly 2015 shootout in Waco and after the arrest and conviction of some of the group’s national leaders.

Those actions provided other motorcycle groups, including the Mongols, room to operate in Texas, according to the report. A group of disgruntled former Bandidos, called the Kinfolk, had also participated in violent conflicts across the state, according to the report.

In terms of the threat to the public safety, the Bandidos and the Kinfolk ranked below well-known gangs, such as MS-13 and the Aryan Brotherhood.

The report also notes the sentiments that law enforcement and the public have toward some of the groups might be at odds.

The Bandidos conduct illegal activities as covertly as possible and generally avoids high-profile activities, the report said.

“Members are not covert about making their presence known, frequently wearing their gang colors, insignia and riding in large groups,” the report said. “They seek to turn public sentiment in their favor by organizing frequent charity runs.”

Police seem to be equally as careful about revealing how they are monitoring gang activity during the rally.

Not long after The Daily News asked some law enforcement officials about their gang monitoring activities, a voice on the scanner cautioned the police watchers to mind what they say over the air.

“Anyone listening, FYI other ears are listening, too,” the voice said.

The Lone Star Rally continues though Sunday.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; or on Twitter @johnwferguson.


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(8) comments

Allen Flores

The event is cool, but it's too big and does not belong in The Strand Historic District. The promoter turns a family tourist area into a flea market and outdoor street party where anything goes after 8pm. Cash only is the slogan for temporary vendors that are placed in front of businesses that pay rent year-round. Charging motorcycle riders $30 cash to ride on free public streets is inconsistent with Texas Transportation Code Section 316. The event goes against all the new efforts to improving the quality of tourism and balancing the residents ability to live normally during events.

Wayne D Holt

100% agree with Mr Flores. Saturday night downtown and it's the soundtrack from Hell outside our windows. The same ear splitting over-revving by a chest thumping contingent, and audio systems have gotten to the point they are louder than the exhausts. I also must have missed the memo that gave parade permit status to every pack of riders who ignore traffic lights and simply stream through intersections by the dozens as we wait for a break in the caravan.

The City should state the plain truth: the mayor and council are unwilling to do what is necessary to enforce even a modicum of public order downtown during this event, which has become more of a rolling Bacchanalia than a traditional rally. I wonder what the police response would be to a Monster Truck Rally in Cedar Lawn?

And to his point about charging to use public streets: Others may recall when the City attempted to restrict traffic during the Kappa event fiasco, the state forbade closing of streets because it denied access to public beaches. Can someone explain how closing the heart of downtown to the public for this spectacle is legal then?

Don Schlessinger

IMO the rally is less disruptive than Mardi Gras. It's here and gone in 4 or 5 days. Mardi Gras is like a bad cold, 2 weeks of disruption.

Christopher Fluke

Though it might be less disruptive to traffic, Mardi Gras is much better for families and noise outside of the strand area during the night. Most of us that live along 25th, and two or three streets away, can’t stand the sleepless nights because of load motorcycles past midnight, past 2am, etc. I’ve been for the Lone Star Rally for the first few years, but every year it gets worse, that I am now starting to lean against it. I can’t say that about Mardi Gras.

Debra Criss

Agree with Mr. Flores and Mr. Holt. I read the PB mission statement this morning. The LS rally fails to meet more than a few of the objectives. It is way past time to look at this event. Splash Day was shut down for far less.

Wayne D Holt

Not only that, Ms Criss. I've read the contract the City has with the LSR promoters that has remained virtually unchanged for years. It SPECIFICALLY states that all City ordinances are to be observed during the event and that businesses and residents affected by street closures are to be notified individually about the disruptions. At this point, one would think those conditions must have been added for comic relief.

Do City leaders even care that organized crime in the form of motorcycle gang members are being monitored by law enforcement agencies as they enter our our invitation? There have been RICO convictions won for less. Let that one sink in for a bit.

Allen Flores

Maybe it would be better along Bodekker Drive and Far East Seawall? The streets and sidewalks of The Strand Historic District are now stained with grease from vendors cooking. Some vendors poured grease into the street drains that flow into the bay. The drains are now clogged with grease sludge and trash, against environmental laws. But the vendors and promoters have moved on to the next town. The flooding of businesses and residents along The Strand is always worse after the trash and grease is left in street drains. Cooking with grease should be banned from the streets and sidewalks in the Historic District. Their are still some beads from Mardi Gras clogging some downtown drains.

Bill Broussard

Miss Criss. I’ve been here over 70 years. Splash day shutdown happened at a time when cit council cared about the city and when people actually lived here rather than lived elsewhere and treated the island like a window street in Amsterdam.

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