BOULDER CITY, Nev. — Hugs, handshakes and hope for a peaceful weekend emerged during an old-fashioned town meeting involving leather-clad Mongols motorcycle club members, shop owners and residents in this town a little more than 20 miles east of Las Vegas.
But Boulder City Police Chief Tom Finn left no doubt for his standing-room-only audience of more than 75 people that local, state and federal authorities will be ready if trouble erupts Friday, Saturday and Sunday as up to 400 Mongols members gather for a national meeting in Boulder City.
Several residents at the late Tuesday meeting remembered a fatal brawl between Mongols and rival Hells Angels during a 2002 motorcycle rally in the Colorado River resort town of Laughlin, about 100 miles south of Las Vegas. Three people died and more than a dozen were injured.
The rival clubs clashed again in 2008 in Las Vegas, when authorities said six people were hurt when Hells Angels leaving a wedding at a downtown marriage chapel encountered three Mongols arriving for a later ceremony. Thirteen people are facing felony charges.
While Finn wouldn’t provide details, he said that police from Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas, Nevada Highway Patrol troopers and agents from several federal agencies will be working during the weekend to prevent another clash.
“My major concern is if a rival club comes into town to disrupt the Mongols event, as we saw in Laughlin in 2002,” the police chief said. “That would be disastrous.”
Boulder City’s adobe-arched main street, Nevada Way, recalls a time when it housed workers of the colossal Hoover Dam project in the 1930s. Its 15,000 residents today enjoy a quiet and casino-free throwback to that earlier era, where they can gossip over coffee at the corner diner, visit hat and curio shops, sip wine at a bistro and greet each other on the way to church.
A Mongols club representative from Las Vegas wearing sunglasses and a leather vest stepped to the front of the City Hall crowd and compared Boulder City to a “classic” 1952 Harley-Davidson panhead motorcycle. The man, who went by the name “Blanco,” said he admired its civic “spirit and soul.” He refused to provide his real name.
“This is a promise from Mongol nation,” the man told townspeople. “We will respect your city and leave it cleaner than when we find it.”
Audience members applauded. And they laughed when Finn told them it would be best to remember to obey speed limits and stop signs with so many uniformed and undercover police in town.
But some expressed concern about rumors circulating among high school students, and one mother asked if she should advise her children to stay away from downtown and the Boulder Inn &Suites hotel, where members were staying.
There was no reason to fear, club lawyer and supporter Stephen Stubbs said. Members were coming to town for what he characterized as a “family reunion.”
“They’re not here to cause problems,” he said. “They’re here to meet up with brothers from other states who they haven’t seen in a very long time.”
Stubbs said Mongols were renting 113 of 117 rooms at the Boulder Inn &Suites. Finn said other participants also were staying at small hotels in the area, and the club was renting from the city an adjacent parking lot.
“This is a private party on private property,” the police chief said.
“I think it’s going to be good for business,” said Merry Summey, a quilting and novelties store owner who said she hoped Mongols friends or family members would visit her shop.
Beth Walker, owner of a candy and ice cream parlor a couple of blocks up Nevada Way, noted that neighboring businesses have seen a recent slump due to road construction that still has the pavement torn up in front of the hotel.
“I’m quite happy to welcome 400 new visitors over a two-day period,” she said.
“We have enough room in our town,” Mayor Pro Tem Cam Walker said after the meeting. “People can be respectful of each other.”