LOUISBURG, Kan. — New concerns arise after police shut down a benefit motorcycle run in Miami County last weekend.
Social media posts are encouraging bikers to head for Louisburg again soon and gather for a protest of perceived police interference with that charity event.
The Night Train Run, which collects toys and raises money for less-fortunate kids’ holiday season gifts, made a stop in Louisburg on Saturday.
Police are aware of the online posts, too. Some messages accuse police of discriminating against motorcycle riders, including those who rode in the weekend event.
Louisburg Police Chief Josh Weber said that isn’t the case. However, if a large contingent of protesters are coming, his department will be ready in case things get out of hand.
The protest, which is scheduled for June 5, according to the online post, could bring a larger and angrier crowd to town, compared to Saturday’s benefit gathering.
Louisburg’s police department employs nine officers. Weber has reached out to neighboring agencies to be ready in case help is needed.
“We don’t promote any type of violence. We would take enforcement action against something like that,” Weber said Thursday.
On Thursday, Louisburg Police shared video with FOX4 from last weekend. It showed Weber talking with bikers at Saturday’s event.
He informed them of several violations of the permit he spotted, including inadequate parking, lock of crowd and traffic control, and failure to establish entryways and exits. On Tuesday, the chief said he also noticed motorcycles blocking traffic in the street.
Weber said motorcycle riders are welcome in Louisburg, but anyone who wants to cause trouble isn’t. The online post encourages riders to turn Louisburg into a large motorcycle parking lot.
“We do not welcome the violence that has been portrayed or criminal activity that has been portrayed around that. People have an absolute constitutional right to come express their opinions about all that stuff. We would just ask them to do it in a civil and lawful manner,” Weber added.
The charity ride was due to hold an auction outside Bub’s Bar and Grill. Dawn Ralle, the bar’s owner, said she believes Weber and his staff don’t want motorcycles in their city.
“We have businesses here. We don’t want them destroyed. We don’t want violence. What we want is justification,” Ralle said. “Let’s be the better people. Let’s be the civilized people that Louisburg Police were not. That’s what it is.”
Ralle filed two separate requests for permission to hold the initial event on the street. The first one stated at least 300 bikers would show up. The second one called for 250 or more.
Police video shows Weber talking with riders at the event, where at least 400 riders showed up.
Michael Bergen, who organizes the Night Train Run, sent this statement to FOX4 News on Thursday:
“We would like to thank the residents and businesses in Louisburg for their support. We ask everyone to be respectful and courteous to the city of Louisburg.”
The city of Louisburg also posted a statement on Facebook:
“City of Louisburg Public Statement
The City of Louisburg is 100 percent supportive of bringing tourism and business to our City.
The City Council, City Staff, and, City Administrator all worked hard with Bub’s Bar and Grill to orchestrate the Night Train Run Event to ensure that the event was a success for not only those involved but for the community as a whole.
To assure the safety of all those who participate in any special event that takes place in our community the City works with the event planner to develop adequate security and safety measures to make the event a successful endeavor.
In this particular instance, the plan established protocols for what streets were to be blocked off to provide a safe atmosphere for the Event. Routes were established for ingress and egress to the event area for the participants of the event to keep traffic moving smoothly and safely. This event also was taking place the same day as our high school graduation so the City was anticipating greater traffic for not only the ceremony but also for the traditional graduation parties that take place throughout the City.
The City provided barricades to the local event planners to block off the streets in the event area and assist in traffic control.
The City has no authority to grant permission to block Kansas State Highway 68. That permission must come from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT). The planned ingress that was presented to the City did not propose a necessity of blocking traffic on 68 Hwy. Traffic was to enter in waves coordinated with the traffic light at 68 Hwy and Metcalf. However, the entry plan to the event was not coordinated with those attending and traffic was being improperly stopped on state highway 68 in two locations. This was a safety hazard for not only those attending the event but also for the many family and friends of Louisburg graduates who would be traveling the same route throughout the day.
The event plan also designated a semi permanent barrier (snow fencing) to keep the area clearly designated where alcohol consumption could take place on the City street. This protocol was not followed as agreed upon. There were to be two distinct entry points where participants would be provided a wrist band and IDs checked to establish they were 21. This protocol was not followed.
The event plan also designated the parking lot to the south of the Wildcat Activity Center on Peoria Street to be used as parking for the event attendees. The local event planners did not inform the attendees of the Night Train of this protocol. The
Riders were led to believe by the local event planners that parking would be on Broadway in the same contained area that was to be used for the alcohol consumption and auction. This resulted in confusion for the riders as to where they were to park.
Detailed maps were developed by the local event planners and the City showing where the cordoned off area for the event was located and the designated parking areas. These maps were not provided to the Night Run Attendees.
At no time were the Riders in the Night Train Run asked to leave by any City Official, including Chief Weber. The only interaction with any Night Train Rider by the police was to explain to them that 68 highway could not be blocked without permission from KDOT.
Body cameras captured the entirety of the conversation between the Night Train leadership and Chief Weber. All of the conversation was professional and polite. The Night Train leader expressed frustration that he was not told by the local event planner that the Riders could not park on Broadway. It was his decision to leave the area approximately 20 minutes earlier than their scheduled departure. Local event planners had informed the City that the riders would be there for approximately one hour between 4 and 5 p.m. before departing to their next planned stop.
The planning and protocols put into place for any events are there to ensure the safety and success of the occasion. The City will continue to encourage and help with planning of all future special events and will continue to encourage tourism in our community.”