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Hells Angels make a date

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Mark your calendars. The Hells Angels plan to come to town from July 31 through August 3, Missoula Police Chief Rusty Wickman confirmed this week.

In the summer of 2000, the last time the rogue motorcycle club came to Missoula, the group camped at Marshall Mountain ski area, east of Missoula. This year Marshall Mountain is the chosen ground again, although many of the club members say they intend to stay in area motels.

“Face it, these guys are getting older. I don’t like to sleep on the ground either,” Wickman says, cracking a smile.

The Hells Angels plan to party on Front Street on Friday and Saturday night, Wickman says. He notes that the Rock Creek Lodge is also hosting the annual Testicle Festival that same weekend.

“The Angels might go out there and find they like it,” he says.

Wickman did not say if Missoula will hire extra police for the weekend as a precautionary measure. But “we have 20 more officers now than we did in 2000,” he says. Having the extra police, he notes, seems to keep the Hells Angels in check.

However, more than 100 extra officers brought into Missoula for the Hells Angels’ last visit—with surveillance helicopters and riot gear—did not prevent a violent melee with citizens downtown. Baton-wielding officers clashed with revelers and used pepper spray to clear the streets. Sixty-three people were arrested; three people went to emergency rooms with injuries caused by police.
 
“We have learned a lot since then,” Wickman says. He points out that Cody, Wyoming, had extra officers when the Angels visited there in 2006, and no trouble occurred.

Part of the Missoula Police department’s “learning a lot” also involves talking to other police departments in areas visited by the Hells Angels during their annual World Run, a yearly rendezvous the bikers hold to discuss club affairs.

Police need to better understand what works and what does not for keeping the peace with the bikers and the public, Wickman says. For example, “the helicopters flying over Front Street seemed to rile the locals.”

As one local biker puts it, the police, the Hells Angels and local motorcycle clubs are working to insure that “nothing stupid happens” this year.

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