No restrictions on colors or patches at this year's Smokeout Chokeout

No restrictions on colors or patches at this year's Smokeout Chokeout

YAKIMA, Wash. -- A popular motorcycle rally here in Yakima is getting more attention this year. Authorities are worried about a potential threat from a criminal biker gang at the Smokeout Chokeout rally.

Their patches look different, but these men say they represent the same thing. A love of motorcycles.

"We just all work together," Joshua Gilliam, VP of Eagle Riders said. "It's just a different family."

They ride every year in the Smokeout Chokeout rally. But, this year's event hit a bump before any bikes hit the streets. City leaders say they had secret intelligence from a law enforcement agency in the state that a criminal biker gang could show up at the event.

"There's a big difference between a motorcycle club or a group like us and a gang," Gilliam said.

Regardless of the difference, Yakima felt it needed to make some changes to the event. There were two options: ban all patches or colors that represent motorcycle groups or, increase the police presence.

"We don't want to suppress people expressive rights, this is America," City Manager Tony O'Rourke said. "At the same time, we want to keep the event and the community safe."

But, word got out the city decided to ban they symbols before it had actually done anything. It stirred up a local social media frenzy.

"I was very upset and I was thinking it was very sad that that's what this society has come down to," James Marsh, the Eagle Riders Sgt. At Arms said.

It turns out there is no dress code after all. Instead, more police will be watching the Smokeout Chokeout.

"I feel good about that because I think we should have the right to express who we are and what we are," Independent rider Carl Berkley said. 

"The city was in the right by doing that and I appreciate what they did," Marsh said. 

Despite the concern this year, YPD tells me there haven't been any serious issues in the past. But, the city's doesn't want to take any chances based on the information it received.

The 9th annual Smokeout Chokeout will be July 11 and 12. A metal detector will be used to check for weapons on anyone coming to the event.