Two members of the Bikers for Christ ministry were told by police to leave a public street fair in Manteca, Calif., for wearing vests that displayed the organization's colors and patches.
While Billy Rogers and Steve Wilson walked around Manteca's annual Pumpkin Fair Sunday, they were approached by two officers who told them they weren't allowed to wear the organization's colors while on the event grounds.
“Steve took his vest off. I took mine off and turned mine inside out in the presence of the two officers,” Rogers told The Christian Post Monday. He said one of the officers, a sergeant, was okay with the change, so he sent the two men on their way.
After walking around for a while, Rogers and Wilson decided to leave. Walking toward their bikes as they left the event, the two decided to put their vests back on as they would normally wear them. He said they were about 100 feet away from exiting the grounds when the same two officers approached them again, only this time they did so “aggressively” and “abruptly.”
Rogers told the officers that he and Wilson were on their way back to their motorcycles after the sergeant told them they had to leave. He asked the sergeant why, if there was a dress code, there weren't any visible signs stating it. He also asked the officers why it was an issue for them to wear the Christian ministry's colors when there was a beer garden, where people were getting drunk, in the middle of the fair.
After Rogers asked his questions, he said, the sergeant told him he didn't need to know the answers and the issue wasn't up for discussion.
“At that point his partner put his hand on his gun,” Rogers said. He and Wilson then turned around and walked to their bikes, even though the officer did not take the weapon out of its holster.
Once they arrived at the place where their bikes were parked, they sent a text message to Dave Bates, the Central Valley Chapter Elder of Bikers for Christ.
"I was appalled at the fact that they were asked to leave because of the Christian patch on our vests. It makes no sense to me,” Bates told The Christian Post.
He said though they may not have been discriminating against Christians specifically, singling out bikers with dress codes isn't fair.
“Discrimination is discrimination either way,” he said.
In a letter to the editor of the Manteca Bulletin, Bates wrote, “It is the purpose of our ministry to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost section of society, the biker world, that society has chosen not to associate with. This ministry has been operating for 21 years with no problems. I was under the impression that profiling was against the law.”
Dave Bricker, chief of police for the Manteca Police Department, said the dress code is in place to prevent gang violence. The event's rules, he said, have been in place for 10 years.
“Like many cities, Manteca experiences gang violence, including a recent gang homicide,” Bricker wrote in an email to The Christian Post. “The area has also experienced significant violence from outlaw motorcycle clubs including ... the recent shoot out in a crowded Sparks Nevada Casino resulting in the death of a member of the Hell's Angels MC. In order to diminish the likelihood of issues that could result in violence at this event, the dress code was enforced fairly and equally.”
“While I am confident that the members of this Christian Club would have had only the best interest of the community at heart ... I cannot say that for the other outlaw clubs that may have seen their colors,” he added. “In the interest of the safety of the community and the event the 'no colors' rules were enforced.”