BELEN — The B-Town Motorcycle Rally scheduled for Saturday, June 10, has been canceled by city of Belen officials, citing safety concerns after a recent deadly shootout between two motorcycle gangs in Red River during Memorial Day weekend. The cancellation left event organizers frustrated and city leaders apologizing for how the decision was handled.

“I agree with the decision but not the way it was handled,” Randy Gettings, B-Town Rally organizer, told the News-Bulletin before he spoke at the Belen city council meeting Monday night. “I would like to see more transparency with the city — be straightforward. Don’t beat around the bush.”

Mike Powers| News-Bulletin photo
Randy Gettings is among those expressing frustration after the B-Town Motorcycle Rally is canceled by the city of Belen.

Before the permit for the rally was rescinded late last week, Gettings met with city leaders several times about their concerns and the two sides originally agreed to push the event back to June 24. Gettings said the city later nixed that date because of a double-booking. A date later this summer was also considered.

As discussions continued, Belen Police Chief James Harris indicated he gathered information that members of one of the groups involved in the Red River shooting planned to be in Belen for the rally.

“I received a tip that the rally had been targeted for some type of violence,” Harris said in a lengthy statement on a Facebook post Monday.

Harris said an attempt was made to find an alternative to cancelling the rally but it was unsuccessful. “I will not apologize for protecting this city and its citizens.”

In his statement, Harris pointed out of the three people killed in Red River, one was from Los Lunas and another from Socorro.

Harris added the final decision was made by himself, Belen City Manager Roseann Peralta and Belen Fire Chief Charles Cox. Belen Mayor Robert Noblin recused himself from the process because of “ethical” reasons that he said “don’t need to be discussed.” Noblin said his roles as mayor and business owner were “two roads intersecting.”

At Monday’s city council meeting, which had a significant police presence, Gettings and two other rally supporters spoke during the public comment period about their aggravation. Gettings mentioned “being jerked around” by the city and finding out about the cancellation on social media. Gettings concluded, “This is America. We’ve got to live our lives.  All bikers aren’t bad.”

Another rally organizer said the “hardest thing” was dealing with upset vendors. He asked the council to reimburse the B-Town Motorcycle Rally for expenses that cannot be recovered, including merchandise and radio air time already purchased.

A third speaker said the rally should not have been cancelled.

“We can’t crucify everybody just because of the few individuals ruining it for everybody else — we’re taking away our freedom.”

Near the end of the meeting, council members were sympathetic.

“This wasn’t handled in the best way,” said councilor Steven Holdman. He added, “It was a very fluid situation,” and “I support the decision — I will always error on the side of caution.”

Council Frank Ortega said, “While it wasn’t an easy choice, I agree with the decision. They were proactive.”

However, councilor Danny Bernal Jr. said the mayor and his staff “fumbled” the process.

“It was handled horribly.”

Bernal said he wants accountability or “things like this will continue to happen.”

Mayor Noblin had the final word, saying the city will “take this lesson forward — it is a great event but bad timing.”

After the meeting was adjourned, Noblin and Gettings shook hands, each apologizing, with the mayor saying, “I’m sorry you had to be the fallout from us learning.”

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Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.