A motorcycle show marred by a fatal fight between rival biker clubs is returning this weekend to Denver’s National Western Complex after organizers agreed to ban the two groups involved.
Because of that ban, other motorcycle clubs in Colorado say they will not attend the Colorado Motorcycle Expo and instead will hold their own event at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Parker.
Organizers for both events said they do not expect any trouble.
“At these events, especially at those held at dealerships, it’s hallowed ground,” said Sean Mayberry, sales manager at Mile High Harley-Davidson in Parker. “It’s just like going to church.”
The motorcycle expo has banned the two gangs involved in the fatal 2016 fight as part of an agreement with the National Western Complex, said Jeff Brown, the motorcycle expo’s owner. The expo also has banned all weapons and will screen attendees for them, he said.
“We’ve had the show for 40 years, and there were no incidents of violence before,” Brown said. “There was an outside club that came in 2016 that wasn’t a vendor or there for anything but to cause trouble. And they won’t be invited back again.”
The motorcycle expo, which had been held every year since 1978, was canceled in 2017 after members of the Mongols and Iron Order fought with fists, knives and guns as other motorcycle enthusiasts and their families strolled the showroom floors.
Paul Andrews, president and CEO of the National Western Complex, said the security measures put in place made the complex comfortable enough to host the expo once again. The security requirements also involve doubling the number of law enforcement on site and bringing in police dogs. The weapons ban will be strictly enforced, he said.
“Not even a pocket knife,” Andrews said. “If you’ve got anything on you, don’t even think of bringing it in.”
The 2016 fight erupted as part of a territorial dispute between the Mongols and the Iron Order. The Mongols had rented booths in the Stock Show complex basement and had claimed a nearby stairwell as their area. When Iron Order members lingered on the stairs, words were exchanged and violence broke out.
Victor Mendoz, a Mongol, was killed by a gunshot. The shooter, Derrick Duran, a state Department of Corrections officer and a member of the Iron Order, was not charged in the shooting. Seven others were wounded in the brawl.
The Iron Order is widely disliked by other motorcycle clubs because it eschews traditions and protocols followed by others involved int the motorcycle club culture. For example, its members in Colorado wear a patch with the state’s name without approval from other groups. The Iron Order also accepts law enforcement officers, and traditional outlaw groups believe that a person cannot live both lifestyles.
In past years, outlaw motorcycle clubs, which also are known as the 1 Percent, sponsored booths at the Colorado Motorcycle Expo, and their members wore their jackets and vests to show off their club’s logos and colors. But, this year, none of those groups will have displays at the show, Brown said.
“There’s going to be a lot less participation by the 1 Percent clubs,” he said.
Still, people who belong to motorcycle clubs other than the Mongols or Iron Order will be allowed to wear their colors if they decide to attend, Brown said. Typically, the expo attracts about 20,000 visitors over the weekend, and Brown doesn’t believe the numbers will drop too much for this year’s event.
“It’s a trade off,” Brown said. “It may affect the overall attendance a little, but it may also open it up to a different crowd.”
The Motorcycle Expo bills itself as the country’s largest indoor motorcycle swap meet, and this weekend’s activities will include a bike show, live music, live tattoos and piercings and a wet T-shirt contest. Booze will be sold on-site, the website said.
About 30 miles away, the traditional motorcycle clubs will have their booths and displays on view at the Harley-Davidson dealership. Those clubs will include the outlaws, along with motorcycle clubs of all kinds, including sober riders, Christian groups and old-school clubs, said Wade Eldridge, the attorney for the Colorado Confederation of Clubs.
The Iron Order is not invited, he said.
The other clubs are showing solidarity with the Mongols.
“The confederation took the position of if the Mongols are excluded, then the entire confederation is excluded and we aren’t going to go,” Eldridge said.
The confederation’s motorcycle swap meet also will be indoors. Mile High Harley Davidson recently expanded its Parker location, and the store will host the event in a vacant 10,000 square foot space that soon will be home to a brewery, Mayberry said.
There is no admission fee, but donations will be accepted for the Vets for Vets of Colorado.