As attorneys for bikers jailed in connection with the deadly Twin Peaks shootout continue to negotiate their releases on reduced bonds, downtown Waco business owners and McLennan County officials are gearing up for what they hope will be a peaceful biker rally Sunday.
The city began placing barricades around the county parking lot across Washington Avenue from the courthouse Friday afternoon, while inside the courthouse a member of the Cossacks Motorcycle Club from far Northeast Texas was seeking a lower bond so he could go home to his fiancee and twin toddlers.
City and county officials say they are expecting 200 to 300 people to attend what organizers are calling a peaceful, silent protest of the mass jailings of 177 bikers rounded up after the May 17 shootout at Twin Peaks.
As of Friday evening, about 124 bikers remained in jail.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said the barricaded parking lot across from the courthouse will serve as the primary gathering spot for the protesters.
Groups of bikers are planning to meet at 8 a.m. Sunday at Sam’s Club in Bellmead and ride around Waco before meeting in front of the courthouse.
“We wanted to make sure that we’ve got an area that will accommodate a large number of people if we have a lot of people show up, just to make it as safe as we can for them,” McNamara said.
McNamara declined to discuss the number of law enforcement personnel who will be on hand for the protest.
“We’re not expecting any trouble,” McNamara said. “We have reached out to the leaders of a couple of these groups coming in, and they have assured us that they want a peaceful rally, and we appreciate that.”
The Facebook page promoting the event says: “We will stop at every stop sign. We will stop at every red light. We will obey the speed limit. We will abide by all traffic laws. We encourage the American flag. We discourage all weapons.”
McNamara said bikers will be instructed to park at the McLennan County Records Building, which is across Fifth Street from the courthouse. They will walk to the lot in front of the courthouse.
Washington Avenue will be blocked off between Fifth and Sixth streets, though traffic will otherwise be allowed to flow normally throughout downtown, he said.
Meanwhile, restaurant and business managers say they will be keeping an anxious eye on the group.
Jake Black, owner of Jake’s Texas Tea House at 619 Austin Ave., said he will close to the public Sunday to give the restaurant a thorough cleaning.
He acknowledged he had the biker rally in mind when he scheduled the cleanup.
“I have customers who come down here after church, and they would not fit with having a lot of bikers around,” Black said. “I don’t know how many bikers are going to be involved. I don’t think anyone does. I’m sure it’s going to be peaceful because they don’t want to lose their motorcycles. But I just don’t believe my customers would enjoy the environment.”
Black said he typically opens from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. The bikers taking part in the protest are scheduled to gather at the McLennan County Courthouse at 12:30 p.m.
On the Sunday of the shootout at Twin Peaks, when there was talk of more bikers coming to Waco that day for another confrontation, law enforcement officials encouraged a few businesses on Interstate 35 to close early for safety reasons.
Among them was the Rudy’s Country Store and Barbecue near Waco’s Traffic Circle.
Alan Jordan, director of operations for the Rudy’s chain, said Friday the business had not made a decision about closing Sunday.
“We have no plans either way at this point,” he said. “We will defer to the police department on what to do.”
A person who identified himself as a manager at the Don Carlos Mexican restaurant next to Twin Peaks at Central Texas Marketplace said he has heard nothing about the establishment closing on Sunday, and he assumes it will remain open.
Some businesses are hopeful the rally means more sales.
“Are we going to close? No, sir,” said Lonnie Cardoza, who manages the nearby Denny’s restaurant. “I’ve heard it’s supposed to be a nice, peaceful gathering, and I hope they stop here and eat.”
Diane Nowlain, who manages Buzzard Billy’s Swamp Shack at I-35 and Lake Brazos, said the Iowa-based owners of the establishment instructed her to close on Sunday “if we felt at all uncomfortable.”
She said she has instructed every manager to report for duty Sunday and will hire two security officers to stand near the door.
“We’ve decided to open for business, but we will not allow the showing of (biker) colors or that type of thing,” she said.
Jennifer Wilson, owner of Spice Village on Mary Avenue downtown, said she and shop owners who lease space from her have discussed the rally and whether they should be concerned. They have tenatively agreed to remain open.
“If we feel it is becoming an issue we don’t want to deal with, we will make a judgment call at the time,” she said.
Staff writer Regina Dennis contributed to this story.