Organisers of the Bulldog Bash motorcycle festival have hit back at police attempts to shut it down, hailing it the “safest show in Europe”.
Event organiser John Britt, also known as Bilbo, said the group was angry at repeated attempts by Warwickshire Police to revoke the licence for this weekend’s festival and labelled their actions “sour grapes”.
Police have tried three times to halt the Hells Angel’s-run event claiming it poses a threat to public safety, but have seen their application overturned each time by Stratford-on-Avon District Council.
They spent £1.4 million patrolling last year’s festival, amid fears that revenge would be sought against the rival Outlaws gang for the murder of Hell’s Angel Gerry Tobin in 2007.
Scrutiny surrounding the Bash was heightened after members of both groups were involved in a violent brawl at Birmingham Airport in January 2008.
Mr Britt, who lives in Reading, said he thought the police reaction was “totally over the top” and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“There’s no justification for what they’re doing,” he said. “We think it’s discrimination. We’ve been doing this show now for 23 years without any problems whatsoever.”
The police’s latest application cited a potential risk of “serious crime and serious disorder at a level that must be addressed”.
Assistant chief constable Bill Holland said this week’s operation would be largely similar to last year’s, commenting: “The vast majority are decent people out to enjoy themselves.
“But there is a small criminal minority and it is against these that the police operation will be targeted. The operation will involve some road closures, as we funnel traffic through check points.”
He added the force had been in close consultation with local residents to keep disruption levels to a minimum.
But Mr Britt dismissed the event as posing any threat, adding: “The only people that are doing things differently this year is the police. I think the whole operation is unneccessary. It’s like football clubs - if they happen to bump into each other something might happen. But no football club would have the same problem as us.
“We are in a fight with the police to preserve our lifestyles. We bring all our children to this show. If the police have got evidence of organised crime, take us to court and prove it.”
More than 15,000 people are expected to attend the festival, which begins today at Long Marston Airfield in Warwickshire and runs until Sunday.