Paul Landers, a motorcycle rights activist and member of the Escondidos Motorcycle Club from Austin, was present at the Twin Peaks in Waco on May 17th, 2015 when 9 bikers were shot and killed and 18 others were injured. Paul (along with 5 members of his club and 170 other people) was arrested, charged with engaging in organized crime resulting in capital murder, and given a $1 million dollar bond. Paul and his club members are among the 154 Waco Bikers indicted by a Grand Jury that are currently being prosecuted.
The thing that always stands out in my mind about Paul’s story, the thing that really hits home in terms of the injustice of this mass arrest, is related to what he was doing when the conflict began. Paul was looking for a place to hang a Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents banner in preparation for a political meeting. Why would someone have a bag full of political material, looking for a place to hang a banner, if they anticipated a fight? The easy answer, at least to me, is that hanging a banner is not what someone anticipating a conflict would be doing.
Paul recently filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging various 4th and 1st Amendment violations and is still actively involved in the motorcycle rights movement, although on a much more restricted basis due to the fact that he is currently being prosecuted. Paul’s rights to travel and association have been severely limited so his political speech rights have been chilled.
Waco Biker Exclusive Interview
The MPP sent a few questions to Paul’s attorney, Millie Thompson, in hopes that Paul would be willing to talk about some of what is happening to him, his family, and his club as a result of the Waco tragedy. The MPP received the following answers:
MPP: Paul, can you explain why you were at the Twin Peaks in Waco on the afternoon of May 17, 2015?
Paul: In Texas we have held bi-monthly Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents, (TCOC&I) meetings for many years throughout the State. Our region 1 meeting was scheduled and advertised publicly for all to attend on May 17th, 2015, just like any other meeting.
My duties as a designated spokesman were to inform our riding community on the recent news and updates from the National Coalition of Clubs conference in Denver a week before, as well as the status of three bills pending at the Texas State house and 84th Texas Legislature session; Lane Filtering, Red Light Safety Bill, and the successful win of our $18 million, Watson sponsored, and the Motorcycle Safety & Recovery fund which had already passed out of committee and was on the Governor’s desk.
We always offer political and biker rights printed information, voter registration forms, patches and support items for our grass roots movement. The pop up tent was set up already , tables and banners were to be set up on location. I didn’t have a chance to get the banner hung at TP.
MPP: What specific legislation were you working on, and going to talk about, at the Texas COC&I meeting that day?
Paul: Specifically; the bill on the Governor’s desk SB 3324. Recovering large dollars for all riders including legislated money for the Rider Training program offered by the State. Lane Filtering and our Red Light Safety Bill were also on the agenda. And a topic at every TCOCI meeting , Anti-Motorcycle Profiling and the latest success in Maryland, were also discussed.
MPP: What were you doing when you heard the first gunshot?
Paul: Looking to hang our banners on the front of the building.
MPP: Did you use a weapon, fire a gun, or participate in any physical altercation at any time while at the Twin Peaks in Waco on May 17, 2015?
Paul: No, I did not.
MPP: Have you ever been convicted of a felony or violent crime? Do you have an extensive criminal history?
Paul: No sir. I have a clean record and I am a long time Concealed Handgun License permit holder.
MPP: Is there anything else you’d like people to know? Any final thoughts?
Paul: To our patch holder and independent riding community at large, do not quit! Do not let one tragic incident like Waco curb your passion and commitment to inform, educate, and legislate all riders. We are all Americans. You must continue the fight to protect your civil liberties. Do not be silent! If anything, Raise your Voice. Gather in numbers, organize your community, police yourselves, and control the message you wish to be heard.
Did crimes occur at the Twin Peaks in Waco on May 17th, 2015? Yes. Video evidence clearly depicts bikers killing bikers. But did 177 people deserve to be arrested en masse and given $1 million dollar bonds? Absolutely not.
Paul’s story is proof positive that Waco authorities are engaging in misguided and unconstitutional targeting of political activists that were present at the Twin Peaks for the sole purpose of advancing the political rights base of motorcyclists in Texas.