South Dakota authorities on Sunday reported the first shipment of clashes, arrests and citations fromn the western part of the state. The annual rally began on Friday, drawing thousands of masked riders through the streets and bars of Sturgis.
While organizers have said they expect fewer visitors than in previous years, Leader Argus reports that the number of arrests and citations has increased from last year.
The Department of Public Safety reported that police made 84 arrests for driving under the influence or drug-related offenses over a 24-hour period ranging from Saturday through Sunday morning. This has come from last year, when 76 people were arrested in a similar time frame.
Police have issued even more quotes, with 226 people receiving tickets. The figure is 37 more than last year. But it seems the police are less lenient this year and are allowing fewer people with warnings.
So far, police in the region have reported 18 collisions, which is dropping from last year’s grade to 20. None have been fatal.
Disconnection ofnow set up in the US, thousands of motorcyclists converged this weekend in Sturgis for what is billed as the world’s largest cycle collection.
“I’ve been here since the beginning of July,” a person in Sturgis told CBS News. “People are tired of being at home, you know. That’s what started this rally is freedom.”
In June, city officials decided by a vote of eight to one to continue with the rally, reports CBS KELO associate. In an email to CBS News, Sturgis City Public Information Officer Christina Steele said that “the decision to hold the Rally came after hearing from thousands of attendees that they were coming to the event, even if it was canceled by Sturgis City.”
In recent years, the 10-day rally in the town of Sturgis has attracted hundreds of thousands of bikers to socialize, drink and celebrate together – raising fears among some locals that this year’s version could be a widespread event.
For now, the north-central state is far from the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic – Meade County, where Sturgis is located, has recorded just one death from the virus, according to state health officials. But in the last two weeks, South Dakota has seen an increase in the percentage of virus tests that return positive – and former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb told Face The Nation that
“It has become so pervasive across the country that it could start infecting more rural communities that are largely untouched to date,” he said.
Some of the bikers spilled in the area are coming from far more distant states.
South Dakota, the site of the famous four former presidents’ massive sculpture on Mount Rushmore – where President Donald Trump held a rally last month – is one of the few that has never ordered a blockade or insisted on wearing a mask.
Attendees at Sturgis are being encouraged, but not required, to wear masks. Few seemed to be doing this.
So far, as the city’s Main Street is filled with bicycles and bicycle-filled bars, there is little evidence of social distancing. Visitors to this 80th edition of the cycle rally already outnumber the more than 6,000 Sturgis residents married in the South Dakota hills.
The rally has long been a major economic boost for Sturgis, and vendors were taking full advantage of it on Sunday.
They pedaled T-shirts marked “I survived the crown” or “God, guns and Trump” or wore a photomontage of the president wearing a leather jacket and making an embarrassing gesture.
While some locals worried about the two-wheeled invaders, the state governor embraced them warmly.
“We are excited for visitors to see what our great state has to offer!” tweeted Kristi Noem, a Republican and a strong supporter of Trump.
Caitlin O’Kane contributed to this report.