Sunday, April 20, 2008

Freedom Rally at the Capitol

April 14th marked the 2008 annual ride to the Capitol here in Tallahassee, Florida, organized by Abate of Florida. This was the first one of these for me, and one of many for Abate of Florida. I had heard so much about previous years, I needed to see this rally for myself. And besides, I am, after all, a freedom fighter.

I rode with a small group of people who had accepted my offer of a place to stay. That Monday morning, we rode to the starting point at the Monticello KOA, just off I-10, east of Tallahassee. But, when we arrived, I was disappointed in the small number of bikes assembled and hoped that more would already be at the Capitol, or would be riding in from other starting points.

We had a police escort from the campground into the city, and since we were close to the front of the line-up, we were able to park close to the main courtyard where the assembly would take place. We stood and watched the others behind us roll in and park. I estimated about 250 bikes showed up for this important rally. Again, that was a disappointment. The local Breast Cancer Poker Run gets more attendance each year.

The opening speech was given by the State Abate President, James "Doc" Reichenbach. His comments were mostly spoken to politicians and legislators, with many of his comments eliciting a response from those listening. I kept looking around for any of those legislators, but they were conspicuously absent. And I am not surprised, as this was a Monday, a travel day, and many were not even in residence. None came out to address the assembly there that morning. More disappointment.

Following his speech, Doc then read off a list of names; fallen brothers and sisters. After each name a designated person rang a bell. It was a solemn and heart wrenching experience.

Afterward, the crowd disbanded and I watched in dismay as more than half got on their bikes and left. So much for storming the halls of the Capitol building. I went inside with the group I came with, and we went down every hallway on every floor of both the Senate and House buildings. Less than half the Representatives or Senators were in their offices. Planning the rally on Monday was a bad oversight.

I'm told there are 7000 - 7500 Florida Abate members. With all due respect to those who attended - bless you all - I was saddened to see so few Abate members in attendance. I'm not a member of Abate, but I went, I supported this rally, because freedom is a very important part of living in this country. Sadly, that is taken for granted by Americans in general, but should not be ignored by American bikers.

I could say, once again, Florida Abate, where were you? But I don't want to discredit those who rode up from southern points to attend this rally. But with over 500,000 registered bikes in Florida, I will say, where the hell were you, Florida bikers???

Our freedom is so very important. Those who have gone before us must surely be looking down and shaking their heads. I am not sure why I thought this rally would be any different than the absent participation at legislative hearings, but somehow I thought it would be.

This rally should have been first on the agenda of every member of Abate. And certainly most of Florida's bikers. How can legislators take us seriously if they don't see us in overwhelming numbers?

What has happened to "A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactment"? That seems to be gone in Florida, replaced with "American Bikers Aiming Toward Education". By definition, Abate of florida isn't even responsible for bikers rights. How convenient.

Florida has no state MRO (Motorcycle Rights Organization). Abate's Freedom Rally was nothing more than a ceremonial ride. Most came for the fun of it, and missed the entire point. The fun is in the ride, yes, but we ride because we have the RIGHT to ride. The Freedom Rally was all about retaining that right. I look to Abate's President and BOD to get that point across. They may have made an effort, who knows, but they failed miserably.

Florida's bikers need an MRO that will fight for their rights to ride free. I just don't see that happening within Abate. True freedom comes from taking a stand of "no compromise, no surrender". I can't remember when Abate last took that stand.

We will see what next year's Freedom Rally brings, and if the biker community in Florida will sacrifice a day of work, skip that poker run, and show up for what is perhaps the most important statement they could possibly make. We have the right to ride free, stand up and count.

Afternote: The Abate state meeting was held the day before this rally. Although it was advertised that all were welcome, member or not, Robert "RC" Conroy was physically prevented from attending the meeting, by two Abate Sgt. at Arms. In addition, another member had his membership revoked without going through the proper procedure outlined in the Abate By-laws. If Abate hopes to increase its membership, this is surely not the way. That Abate's President would condone such acts does nothing to discredit his already questionable reputation.

1 comment:

Sam said...

The following was sent to me in response to this post. I have removed his name as he obviously wishes to remain anonymous or he would have posted it here.

Hi Sam,
Upon reading your message below and what you've learned on your trip to Tallahassee this year you have come to find out first hand why only 250 of 7 to 7500 (if that many) showed up.
When you hit a dog on the nose with a newspaper enough times he'll quit bringing in the paper. Same goes with a lot of members and non-members of ABATE.
If your not going to be heard, if you can't ask questions, if you can't disagree and suggest another way, if your escorted out of a supposed open meeting for questioning an item or person then why show up.
If you look really close the AMA has done a lot more for Biker rights in Florida in the last 10 years than those who are supposedly in charge of ABATE. Not to say that Florida Bikers haven't tried but when a party stands in between the two seems as though the party takes over and the rally falls short. Hence 1000 at the party on Saturday night and 2-250 on Monday when you really need them.
You see with the AMA its business FIRST. I've been privileged be included in and with some of the people who have dealt this way over the years. Maybe it was as they say, "OLD SCHOOL" way of thinking. Seems as thought it worked as those who did it the old school way still have the numbers when a call goes out that a bad biker bill is up for some type of vote. Then when the dust settles the keg is opened.
Weather we like it or not, dealing with politicians is a business to which they are good at (Hell, we elected them) and you can bet they were not up the night before at some party.
I do not think I have ever met Doc the President of Florida ABATE but I have heard many things about him and his administration and sorry to say not to much good I'm afraid.
Therefore I can't condemn or condone what has happen to ABATE of Florida but to say if those who are un-happy with the status quo than they need to grab the bull by the horns and run with it awhile.

No high profile job is easy as your being watched at all times, but if your any type of manager you surround yourself with people who KNOW what is to be done (Protect Biker Rights) and go forward.

If this can't be done, then step aside and let others try there hand and keep trying till the right people are in place.

Remember it SHOULD NEVER be about ME, it should ALWAYS BE about US.

#1, I would expect a dog to stop bringing in the newspaper if his master continued to smack him on the nose. However, we are not dogs, and no one smacks me with a newspaper and gets away with it. Are you saying the rest of Florida's bikers are allowing Abate to get away with that?

#2, ANYONE can be heard in a legislative hearing. Using the "strong-arm" approach is no excuse for not taking care of your own rights when it is needed. It also doesn't require an education or anything beyond determination, to stand up for your rights. Allowing politicians to intimidate you is called "no balls". They are just people, like anyone else.

#3, I agree the AMA does a lot of good things, far more than most MRO's, but on the national level. I've never seen an AMA rep at one of our committee hearings in the Capitol, fighting a bill that severely limits the rights of bikers. In fact, I've never seen a "call to action" issued by the AMA inspire anyone in Florida to go to these hearings and fight them. A "call to action" does nothing without results.

Actually, the only thing I can totally agree with here is that parties and poker runs seem to carry more weight than the rights of motorcyclists, and

Abate's manager, president, state paid lobbyist, DOES need to step down. Especially when he doesn't support the rights of Florida's bikers and continually compromises on laws that don't.

You're right, it should be about US, in the sense that we are all bikers, and have the same goal; to protect our rights, no compromise, no surrender.