For several days, big-city pundits have tried to channel the deadly Twin Peaks motorcycle-gang shootout through ideological prisms of police brutality, racism and journalistic shortcomings. Most of the results have been a stretch, oddly compelling but not very convincing.
A synthesis of some of these dubious interpretations holds that Waco police handled the arrests of bikers (the ones not shot, that is) without incident because police and bikers are mostly white. A piece in Salon, for instance, faults some of the news media (Texas media primarily) for only employing the word “riot” when communities of color are involved.
All this overlooks inconvenient facts, including that last Sunday’s unrest was, whatever else, a biker brawl — bigger perhaps, certainly bloodier, and stupidly conducted at a modern shopping center along busy Interstate 35 rather than at some dusty outpost in rural stretches, but still a brawl. To call it a riot almost dignifies what unfolded when, according to one report, someone ran over someone else’s foot in the parking lot.
My favorite piece from the less-than-legitimate news media comes from Veterans Today: Journal for the Clandestine Community, which reports that the biker-gang shootout at Twin Peaks, home of 29-degree beer and briefly attired waitresses, was instigated by “Hell’s ISIS,” a radical Muslim motorcycle gang planning to invade Texas as part of the Jade Helm conspiracy.
This breathlessly written article goes on to quote Fox News terror analyst Steve Emerson: “They’re massed on the Mexican border — thousands and thousands of Harley-loving fundamentalist Muslims with one hand on the throttle and the other waving a sword. They’re revving up their engines and ready to cross the Rio Grande and create ISTO — the Islamic State in Texas and Oklahoma.”
Only further in the article does one conclude this is for laughs when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is quoted: “I hereby order the National Guard of the State of Texas to monitor these head-chopping, liver-licking jihadi bikers in order to ensure that our constitutional rights, including the right to keep our heads attached to our shoulders by way of our necks, and our right to keep our livers tucked into our bellies where they belong, shall not be infringed.”
Enjoy this while it lasts. The truth is the Twin Peaks story isn’t going to have “legs” and command national attention for long — at least, not of the scope that we saw with the 1993 Branch Davidian fiasco, which erupted 10 miles east of Waco, settled into a 51-day standoff and since has sparked debates on religious liberty, gun control, federal overreach, law enforcement competency and the danger of apocalyptic cults. One account of last Sunday’s gathering is that it was a Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents legislative update for bikers, focusing on bills such as one to allow “lane-splitting” in heavy traffic.
The most obvious cause one might expect to employ last weekend’s biker-gang melee for political ends — the campaign against controversial open-carry legislation mounted by police chiefs across Texas and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense — made only perfunctory use of it at Monday’s Senate State Affairs Committee hearing on the bill.
Open-carry opponents dutifully (and legitimately) noted how it could have aggravated matters for Waco police, but everyone seemed to be going through the motions. Committee members, who had heard it all before, looked tired. Mothers of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, who had said it all before, looked resigned. Even the open-carry advocates, sensing victory, suggested (possibly begged) their supporters not to testify this time, leaving it instead to cool-headed movement leadership.
Some advocates and critics of open carry acknowledged that, given the number of firearms at the Waco crime scene (118 handguns plus an AK-47 rifle — my weapon of choice for legislative updates), it would be interesting to see how many of the dead, hospitalized and incarcerated had criminal records that precluded them from carrying weapons in Texas. The Associated Press revealed Thursday that more than 115 of the approximately 170 people arrested had not been convicted of a crime in Texas. And Friday evening the Texas Senate passed open-carry legislation.
As those still jailed after the Twin Peaks shootout contemplate the score — nine dead, 18 injured and reports of biker grenade threats against Texas law enforcement — they can rejoice at one thing: A legislative priority — putting more motorcycle-related state fees into campaigns reminding motorists to look out for motorcyclists — passed. Open-carry legislation was not listed among the group’s priorities.