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More than 100 law enforcement officers are converging on southeastern Utah, bracing for an invasion of bikers. It's not the mountain bikers Moab is used to, it's the Bandidos. Several hundred members of the notorious and sometimes violent motorcycle club are coming from all over the world for a meeting.
At one Moab night spot, the welcome mat is out for bikers, but at another popular tavern, it's like they're preparing for Hurricane Bandido. They're shutting down the bar and fencing it off for the next five days.
Shari Beck, with Woody's Tavern, said, "This is their ideal location. They like to put their bikes out where everyone can see and be seen. And it's just, I can't guarantee the safety of my employees."
But at a campground the Bandidos rented, the owners are looking forward to the unknown. Lisa Nelson, with Kane Springs campground, said, "Well, they seem very nice on the phone, so I guess we'll see when they get here."
The image of motorcycle clubs, or gangs, was established, right or wrong, 50 years ago by movies like "The Wild One." Brawling, beer-swilling, rebellious hoods. Modern-day law enforcement has labeled the Bandidos, Hell's Angels and other clubs "outlaw gangs." Some have been linked to drugs, prostitution and racketeering. Murderous clashes between some of the clubs have claimed many lives.
Moab Police Chief Michael Navarre, said, "I think generally they are a law-abiding group when they hold these rallies."
Along the Colorado River canyon where they're camping, the Bandidos will reportedly have their own security force. Local cops are getting help from numerous agencies, bringing in at least 100 extra patrol officers. "We're running a high-profile detail here. There will be lots of cops visible everywhere," Navarre said.
Grand County Sheriff Jim Nyland said, "I mean, we have no intelligence to indicate that we're going to have any problems."
The cops have no intention of using this event as an opportunity to serve outstanding warrants. As one officer put it, "Why stir up a hornet's nest?"
In a campground building, the Bandidos plan to hold a business meeting on membership, budget and future planning. The travel council has even had positive discussions with the Bandidos about recycling.
Marian Delay, with the Moab Travel Council, said, "And they've basically said, ‘You know what, we just want to come in, we want to hold our meetings, conduct our meetings and be left alone down there. So we don't want to be bothered. And just let us be who we need to be.' And you know, hopefully, that's exactly what will happen."
Law enforcement expects 500 to 800 bikers, but some estimates run significantly higher. Most of the Bandidos are expected to arrive tomorrow and stay through Sunday.