Defiant motorcyclists: God, guns and Trump

AFP
Thousands of motorcyclists are converging this weekend on a South Dakota town for what is billed as the biggest motorbike gathering in the world despite 5 million recorded cases.
AFP
Defiant motorcyclists: God, guns and Trump
AFP

Motorcycles and people crowd Main Street during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, in the US. The rally usually attracts around 500,000 people. Officials estimate more than 250,000 may still show up this year despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Shrugging off the 5 million coronavirus cases now tallied on US soil, thousands of motorcyclists are converging this weekend on a small South Dakota town for what is billed as the biggest motorbike gathering in the world.

In past years, the 10-day rally in the town of Sturgis has drawn hundreds of thousands of bikers to socialize, drink and party — raising fears among locals that this year’s version could be a super-spreader event.

For now, the north-central state is far from the hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic — Meade County, where Sturgis is located, has registered only one virus death, according to state health officials — but some of the bikers pouring into the area are coming from distant states far worse hit.

South Dakota, site of the famed massive sculpture of four former presidents on Mount Rushmore — where President Donald Trump held a rally last month — is one of the few to have never ordered a lockdown or insisted on mask-wearing.

Attendees in Sturgis are being encouraged, but not required, to wear masks. Few appeared to be doing so.

So far, as the town’s Main Street fills with bikes, bars and bikers, there is scant evidence of social distancing.

Visitors to this 80th edition of the rally already greatly outnumber the 6,000 residents of Sturgis.

The rally has long been a huge economic boon to Sturgis, and vendors were taking full advantage of it on Sunday.

They peddled T-shirts marked “I survived corona” or “God, guns and Trump” or bearing a photomontage of the president in a leather jacket and making an obscene gesture.

While some locals worried, the state’s governor is welcoming.

“We’re excited for visitors to see what our great state has to offer,” tweeted Kristi Noem, a Republican and strong Trump supporter.

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