Hells Angels from around the world are arriving in Laconia for their annual World Run, a gathering shrouded in secrecy and being watched closely by police.

Except for a couple of events for which the motorcycle club needed city permits, no one knows exactly what kind of activities the riders plan, though police Chief Tom Oetinger doesn’t believe they plan trouble.

“I don’t believe it’s the intent of the organization to come in and create conflict or cause problems, but I need to be prepared for any eventuality,” Oetinger said Tuesday.

His preparations include calling in extra officers from other communities, state police and federal agencies, much as he does for Motorcycle Weekend in June.

The World Run, reportedly held in Spain last year, is a meeting that draws representatives from each Hells Angels chapter. Chapters must send members or risk getting fined, said state police Lt. Terry Kineen, an authority on motorcycle gangs.

Oetinger said he has researched Hells Angels World Runs and USA Runs and the police preparations and response to them.

“We’ve found that a high visibility, strong police presence seems to be the best approach to take,” he said.

“The purpose is to act as a deterrent to avoid any problems with people that might be attending the event or people from the local community.”

The high visibility already has begun, with more police patrols as some Hells Angels members arrived early in the week.

Oetinger expects most of the activity to be at the group’s clubhouse a little less than two miles from Weirs Beach.

“They have not been particularly open in sharing their planning,” he said, “but that’s their right. It’s a private gathering, a convention, if you will.”

Neither Ed Shaughnessy, the local Hells Angels chapter spokesman, nor the group’s lawyer, Scott Bratton of Lowell, Mass., has been responding to media calls.

Oetinger said he expects the group plans an outdoor concert because it was granted a loudspeaker permit. It also has a permit for a private fireworks display.

“My concern does not lie so much with what occurs on their property,” he said. “It’s the interaction or the potential conflict that might occur in public areas.”

Oetinger estimates there may be anywhere from 900 to 1,500 club members in town for the Thursday-to-Sunday gathering, a far smaller effect than Motorcycle Week, which organizers believe draws 350,000 riders.

At the Greater Laconia-Weirs Beach Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director Theresa Pinto said she has gotten calls from people asking if there would be organized events to watch, similar to Motorcycle Weekend.

“They haven’t published a schedule of events,” she said with a laugh.

But she said she expects riders will act like other visitors.

“They want to make the most of the area, so they’ll probably do runs up to Mount Washington; over to the Seacoast. Who knows, maybe they’ll go outlet shopping,” Pinto said.

She said she sees the gathering as just another convention, “exempt they are not going to load everyone on buses. They just happen to all be on motorcycles.”

AP-ES-07-29-03 1553EDT



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