The RCMP have called in extra officers and Lacombe Police Service cancelled weekend leaves to deal with a Hells Angels rally taking place near Red Deer this weekend.
RCMP will not say much about what is expected at the gathering or how police plan to respond. The site of the rally by Canada’s largest outlaw motorcycle gang has also not been disclosed.
“At a park” is all RCMP spokesman Sgt. Patrick Webb would say when asked where they will be.
Webb said police are reluctant to create fear among the public by sending out warnings.
“We’re trying to quell concerns and not tell (the public) not to go places.”
Webb said there is no reason for area residents to worry.
“They are a criminal organization. What we’re doing is we’re prepared to respond to whatever comes up.”
Unless there is trouble, it is unlikely the public will notice anything out of the usual, he said, adding police plan a “measured response.”
Besides extra officers, the RCMP could bring in a helicopter or other vehicles, but Webb was offering no specifics on Thursday.
“There will be traffic stops obviously. We’re not going to say we’re not doing that,” he said.
Police are expected to say more today.
Lacombe Police Services Chief Gary Leslie said four of his officers will be part of a joint force with the RCMP this weekend.
He is not expecting any trouble from the motorcycle gang.
“The way I look at it is they don’t want to bring any extra attention upon themselves,” he said. “I believe they are going to try to maintain a low profile and behave themselves.
“If there is trouble, it might arise as a result of somebody outside the group that might do something silly.”
The Hells Angels haven’t had a large rally in Alberta since July 1997, when about 250 members descended on Central Alberta for a patch-over ceremony with local members of the rival Grim Reapers.
The event saw five local Grim Reapers become members of an Edmonton Hells Angels chapter, marking the official arrival of Hells Angels in Alberta. A second chapter was started in Calgary at the same time.
The ceremony drew a massive police response. It involved 130 officers, including municipal and RCMP officers from Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec, as well as Canada Customs and intelligence officers.
A CheckStop was set up on Hwy 2 and hundreds of tickets were handed out to bikers. Most were thrown out of court three years later when a judge declared “the principles of fundamental justice were violated.’’
Over the years, there have been less visible visits by the Hells Angels. In 1999, a Hells Angels wedding in Sylvan Lake drew a few dozen members.
In 2003, police warned motorcycle gang members would be passing through town on their way to a ceremony in White Rock, B.C. The following year, about 200 members were in Red Deer for the funeral of local member Reginald Joseph Barrett, 48, who had died of a heart attack.
There are now about 450 Hells Angels in Canada. The Red Deer chapter has about five members.