Police criticized at Carlton forum about treatment of Hells Angels
It took a while for those attending a public forum at Lost Isle on Tuesday night to start telling their stories about the Hells Angels' recent visit to Carlton.
But when they did, law enforcement took some hits.
Missy Kovach said she was driving 65 mph on Interstate 35 near Barnum, keeping pace with a group of Hells Angels ahead of her, when officers converged on the bikers, pulled them over and ticketed them for speeding when the limit is 70 mph. They were the same group who helped the Hermantown woman get her car started when it broke down.
An angry Mary Ableiter, who works the midnight shift at the Junction Oasis in Carlton, said business -- and her tips --were nil with patrol cars parked in the lot outside all night, scaring away the bikers and her regular customers.
Others alleged that civil rights were violated, police profiling occurred and that the harassment extended to the community.
"During that weekend, we were in a police state ... with police breaking laws," said George Stefanyshyn of Carlton.
Mike LaVoie said his 26-year-old daughter was followed by a squad as she drove home from a wedding.
"There was no reason for it," he said.
Tim Rogentine, owner of the Lost Isle bar and restaurant, which served as the Hells Angels headquarters during their visit, has called the multi-agency show of force "harassment."
He called the public forum to hear the stories and planned to share them with Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake. The meeting drew about 40 people, including several local bikers.
"My goal is to ensure that this doesn't happen again," he said.
Neither local law enforcement nor local officials attended the meeting. Rogentine said he didn't invite them, but they still could have come.
"I was hoping they would be here to answer some very pointed questions," said Andrew Mathiassen of Superior.
Earlier Tuesday, Sheriff Lake said the police response, which she spearheaded, had been evaluated since the Angels departure Aug. 2.
"We wouldn't do anything differently," Lake said. "We still maintain the increased presence was needed to keep the peace and it did."
As a result, she said, there were no major incidents, illegal activity or other problems during the four-day rally.
Cloquet Deputy Police Chief Terry Hill said the daily traffic stop numbers showed that more of the general population were stopped in Carlton and southern St. Louis County than Hells Angels.
"It's evident that the response worked," Hill said. "We knew as a group we were going to take some hits. We'd rather take those hits than take the other hits that we weren't prepared."