California Bikers Defy City Council Decision, Continue Rally

Thousands of bikers roared into the town made famous by Marlon Brando's 1953 film "The Wild One" on Saturday, defying a city council decision to cancel one of the country's most celebrated motorcycle rallies.

The bikers cruised Hollister's streets on personalized choppers, racing bikes and tricked-out Harley-Davidsons. One man rode with his goggle-sporting dog in a sidecar.

"We're the taxpayers. We're not hoodlums," said Jack Stout, 51, of Gilroy, who has logged more than 40,000 miles on his 2003 Harley-Davidson Superglide.

The Hollister Independence Rally has been a summer destination for bikers for decades, much like the Sturgis rally in South Dakota. But earlier this year, the City Council voted to cancel the July Fourth weekend event, saying it was too expensive and too dangerous.

Bikers showed up anyway, though in smaller numbers. Police Capt. Bob Brooks estimated 5,000 people attended Saturday — normally the most popular day of the rally — compared to 15,000 to 20,000 in previous years.

"They'll never stop it. It's been going since the '40s," said Tony Morris, 53, who rode in on his Harley-Davidson Road King from the San Francisco area.

Hollister, about 50 miles south of San Jose, is normally a quiet city home to boutiques and mom-and-pop restaurants. But this weekend it was full of bikers riding custom cycles, many worth tens of thousands of dollars.

City council member Monica Johnson said officials knew when they canceled the event in February that bikers would come anyway, so they devised a contingency plan. The city spent $150,000 on extra police patrols this year, compared to the $700,000 it would've spent if it sanctioned the event, she said.

"It wasn't about, we don't want them to be here at all. It was about, the city couldn't afford to have a rally," Johnson said.

Bikers said they were disappointed the city didn't sanction the event, but it wouldn't deter crowds. Hollister has attracted motorcyclists since 1947, when Life magazine published an article on a brawl that is credited with inspiring the Brando movie about a renegade biker gang that invades a small town.

The city's decision angered business owners. Many hung signs in their windows welcoming bikers and offering specials on bottled water, pizza and beer.

Bikers were organizing a petition drive to make the rally a city-sanctioned event. Johnson said the council would consider the idea for next year.

"We want the public to see exactly what the biker community thinks of this town and how nonviolent (the rally) is," said Marlon Moss, executive director of the Hollister Rally Commission.

Moss said the rally should be legitimate because independent-minded bikers would continue to attend out of tradition.

"Even though there's not an event," he said, "the biker community knows the history and they show up."