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Thousands of riders heading to a South Dakota motorcycle rally were to face roadblocks at tribal land checkpoints blocking their travel over fears of spreading the coronavirus.
Bikers on their way to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally would reportedly not be allowed to cross Cheyenne River Sioux checkpoints, according to a spokesman for the Native American group. The checkpoints, deemed illegal by state and local authorities, were set to prevent the bikers from access to tribal lands, citing fears that they could cause a spread of the virus.
A Cheyenne River Sioux duty officer told the Guardian on Saturday that commercial and emergency vehicles would be the only ones allowed onto reservation land through the checkpoints and bikers headed to the 10-day event which began on Friday had already been turned away.
In addition, the Oglala Sioux and many other reservations had also been preventing riders from access to the lands, as fears mounted that mask-free bikers could spark a regional COVID-19 outbreak.
Drivers who are not residents and driving non-commercial, out-of-state vehicles are normally blocked from entering the sovereign lands, according to Cheyenne River tribal guidelines, but with the rally taking place, even drivers of non-commercial vehicles with local South Dakota plates are being turned away.
Rally-goers began arriving last week for the annual gathering, many sporting motorcycle gear, American flags and even support for President Donald Trump.
Sturgis last night 8/8/20 pic.twitter.com/SnlVZ6ls0g
— Jennifer T (@jennifer_marj) August 9, 2020
South Dakota’s local and state authorities are now in a fight over the checkpoints with the seven tribes that make up the Great Sioux Nation, while as many as 250,000 bikers are expected to attend the 80th annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis which has been supported by Gov. Kristi Noem,
Though the liberal media and other critics have raised the alarm over the event being referred to as a “superspreader,” the Republican governor avoided mandating masks in the state, pointing out that the Fourth of July event held by President Trump at Mt. Rushmore last month caused no new infections.
“The story and that needs to be told, is that I trusted my people, they trusted me, they took personal responsibility for dealing with this virus, and we are doing very well,” Noem told Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” last week.
“Not only do we have one of the lowest death rates, we’ve got about 40 people in the hospital today statewide, our infection rates are low, our job losses are low, our economy is doing better than virtually any other state, and I think it’s a real testimony to what could have been possible in other states, but those governors just made the wrong decisions,” she said.
Meade County, where Sturgis is located, has had less than 100 reported infections.
#Sturgis2020 kicks off today. Welcome to South Dakota!
Our state had the Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration. We had the first national indoor sporting event with fans thanks to @PBR.
We’ve been “Back to Normal” for over 3 months, and South Dakota is in a good spot.
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) August 7, 2020
But some residents and those fear-mongering over the largest event there since the COVID-19 outbreak fear that thousands of mask-less bikers, packing bars, concerts and other events, will lead to a massive spike. Though the silence from the same critics was deafening when left-wing protesters filled streets in U.S. cities in the last few months.
A survey sent to the nearly 7,000 residents of Sturgis by the local city council reportedly found that 60% of them wanted the event cancelled or postponed but the local leaders gave the green light for it to proceed.
“There are people throughout America who have been locked up for months and months,” Daniel Ainslie, the city manager, told CNN on Sunday. “So we kept hearing from people saying it doesn’t matter, they are coming to Sturgis. So with that, ultimately the council decided that it was really vital for the community to be prepared for the additional people that we’re going to end up having.”
I know all the liberals are hoping everyone dies at Sturgis, but in the likely event my cousin comes back without Covid, can the rest of us go back to work? Or what exactly are we waiting for?
— Neil Rubenstein (@NeilRubenstein) August 10, 2020
Businesses have supported the rally, noting they need the sales after being economically hit by the pandemic. And those attending the event, like Arizona resident Stephen Sample, said they needed the break after months of lockdowns.
“I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to be cooped up all my life either,” the 66-year-old, who rode his Harley-Davidson to the rally, told the Associated Press. “I think we’re all willing to take a chance.”
“Screw COVID,” a T-shirt being sold read. “I went to Sturgis.”
Im absolutely LOVIN watching liberals go apeshit about #Sturgis2020 😂
Dont worry libs, this is just a peaceful protest. See how this works? 😎🇺🇸pic.twitter.com/NRPEK96rCA
— Femme🇺🇸 (@RealBasedMAGA) August 8, 2020
— Connor Matteson (@mattesontv) August 8, 2020
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