Boulder City’s famed bighorn sheep grazed as lazily as usual in Hemenway Park early Friday afternoon, June 22, oblivious to the “danger” that was just now rolling into town.
A couple of miles up the road, it was the moment the sleepy hamlet’s 15,000 residents had dreaded for weeks: the arrival of scores of masked members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club for their three-day national convention.
Media from all over Southern Nevada hovered for the inevitable culture clash: “Tatted-up bikers invade Pleasantville, USA.”
During a meeting earlier in the week, a few locals expressed a willingness to lay down their figurative arms and literally embrace a couple of Mongols, who didn’t look like they needed a hug.
Still, the city’s main drag was quieter than usual Friday afternoon. There were plenty of empty seats at the Coffee Cup. Business owners told a Boulder City reporter they thought locals were afraid to leave the house.
Whether the collective hand-wringing was warranted depends on your point of view.
Mongols supporters, including their Boulder City lawyer, said the hype was ginned up. They noted that there has never been an incident of violence at one of their national meetings, which they compared to mellow family reunions.
But the Mongols can’t outride their sometimes bloody local history, including involvement in a 2002 Laughlin brawl that left three bikers—one Mongol and two Hells Angels—dead.
Law enforcement wasn’t taking any chances. Police cruisers from across the Las Vegas Valley were stationed at every intersection along Nevada Highway. Uniformed officers patrolled sidewalks and sat 10-deep at Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop.
Meanwhile, the Mongols took over downtown’s Boulder Inn and Suites, hung a “Mongols” banner from the second-floor railing and migrated to the inn’s lounge for drinks.
I had this idea to ask them just how scary they were. At midafternoon I sauntered into the lounge, notebook at the ready.
It was wall-to-wall Mongols. They appeared to notice me all at once. Conversations ceased. I thought I heard a record somewhere come screeching to a halt. Several Mongols threw eye daggers at my face. To quote their collective body language: No fucking comment.
I admit it: They were intimidating. But is that all? I mean, by weekend’s end the town was still standing. No major incidents were reported. The Mongols came, partied and left, like they promised.
Will locals be more welcoming, less fearful, if the Mongols—or a similar group—decide to visit in the future? Will there be a greater spirit of tolerance and understanding? Will retirees and bikers join hands to sing “Kumbayá”?
It’s hard to say. Sure, there’s never been an incident of violence at one of these meetings. But come Sunday, as the Mongols rolled back out of town, you could almost hear the communal sigh of relief.