Hells Angels came, behaved and left Carlton; some claim police harassed bikers
DULUTH - The owner of the bar and restaurant that hosted the Hells Angels rally in Carlton lashed out Sunday at law enforcement officers for harassing his customers.
Tim Rogentine said federal, state and local law enforcement agencies -- even some Canadian Border Services agents -- spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on a "farce" and a "waste of time."
"There was more illegal activity by the police than there was by the Hells Angels," Rogentine said. "The way they harassed these guys wasn't right. All that money, all those [officers], and all they found was one felony?"
Rogentine said many Hells Angels were pulled over for no reason, searched and harassed to the point that some left early while others stayed in their hotel.
Rogentine and others interviewed Sunday said the harassment included following Hells Angels on their sightseeing rides, random traffic stops for no apparent offense, a Blackhawk helicopter repeatedly shining a spotlight into the Lost Isle parking lot Saturday night and intimidation of Hells Angels members by federal officers.
While police say their show of force probably prevented any violence from occurring during the rally, Rogentine echoed the sentiment of people who have commented on duluthnewstribune.com and in letters to the editor of the News Tribune that the show of force was overkill.
"I'm not alone," Rogentine said. "The Carlton community is very upset about this. We're going to have a meeting to discuss how we can get a handle on what the police did during this."
It's still not clear how many Hells Angels members were here for the event. Some began to trickle in Tuesday and police put the number at about 500 by Saturday, though Rogentine said it was far fewer than that.
Nearly all Hells Angels members had pulled out of the Black Bear Casino and Resort and the Lost Isle by early Sunday afternoon, including a member from Phoenix who identified himself as Boomer.
"They treated us like royalty here at the casino," he said. "But the police overreacted. ... It was pure harassment."
Boomer said he was off to Wal-Mart in Cloquet to get a money-gram and then he was headed to Sturgis, S.D.
"I haven't been home in a month and a half," he said as his Harley rumbled out of the Black Bear parking lot.
The Hells Angels left behind a spotless parking lot and grounds at Lost Isle, with nary a paper cup or cigarette butt on the ground. They also left a good impression on the staff, along with a little money.
"They cleaned this up on their own. We didn't even ask them to," Rogentine said. "They were absolute perfect gentlemen. I can't think of a wedding I've had here in the last four years here where the people behaved this well."
Duluthian Alexander McUrton said police "way, way overreacted" to the Hells Angels gathering, saying the show of force could have spurred an incident.
"The Hells Angels didn't create any incidents because they didn't want to create an incident, not because the police were following them everywhere," McUrton said. "I saw a few of the HA guys in Kmart in West Duluth, and the police sat in the parking lot and watched them the whole time. That verges on harassment."
Far from raping and pillaging, Rogentine said the Hells Angels he met went charter fishing on Lake Superior, attended the races at Proctor Speedway, went whitewater rafting on the St. Louis River and sightseeing along the North Shore.
"They may have been rough back in the '60s and '70s, but they've changed. They're a club, not a gang," Rogentine said.
When asked if he would host the Hells Angels again, he didn't need to think about his answer:
"In a heartbeat," he said.