- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2017

The bikers stood out at the weekend’s inauguration events in Washington with their leathers and colors, a visual reminder of the often-overlooked Americans who came out of the woodwork to unexpectedly propel Donald Trump to the White House.

Bikers for Trump grew from a quirky fan club to a grass-roots political phenomenon and unofficial security detail at Trump campaign events — and the bikers are sticking around as shock troops for President Trump’s agenda, said Chris Cox, who founded the group that now boasts roughly 230,000 members.

“In another three to four months, we’ll be the size of the Christian Coalition,” he told The Washington Times at the group’s Inauguration Day rally just off the National Mall. “We hope to come out of the gate strong with a legislative presence in Washington.”

Recognizing the contribution Bikers for Trump made to his election victory, Mr. Trump telephoned Mr. Cox before the inauguration to thank him.

“We had a matter-of-fact conversation like I would have with one of my old college buddies,” said Mr. Cox. “He told me what a huge impact we had — as much as anybody. And how it’s the birth of a new demographic, one that he hopes will be a sweet spot for the Republican Party for years to come.”

With the help of Republican lawmakers who joined them on the campaign trail, such as Rep. Robert Pittenger, North Carolina Republican, the bikers also plan to push some of their own legislative agenda on veterans and motorcycle issues.

The rally in John Marshall Park, with thousands of bikers and a program that included a performance by the Fryed Brothers Band, was the largest organized pro-Trump gathering outside official inaugural events.

“These bikers are coming together from all walks of life,” said Mr. Cox.

Indeed the bikers represented many segments of the Trump coalition: veterans, blue-collar workers, evangelicals from Bikers for Christ, disaffected Democrats and anti-establishment outsiders who usually don’t vote.

The bikers identify with Mr. Trump’s unapologetic, straight-shooting style.

“He tells it like it is, and that’s what we want to hear,” said Phil Kinney, a Biker for Trump member from South Carolina. “We’re tired of the politics that’s been up there the last eight years — actually a little bit longer than that — and we feel like he’s the one telling it straight the way it is.’

The 43-year-old registered nurse said Mr. Trump was like one of his biker brothers.

“We have each other’s back. We tell each other straight to our face. We’re not going to hide anything. We tell each other the truth — straight up,” he said.

New Hampshire state Rep. Alfred P. Baldasaro, who advised the Trump transition on veterans issues and spoke at the Bikers for Trump inauguration rally, said Mr. Trump connected with bikers on the basic issue of freedom.

“Bikers are all about freedom. Trump is about freedom,” said Mr. Baldasaro. “Trump is about taking care of America first. That’s what resonates with everyday Americans.”

In addition to organizing rallies in support of Mr. Trump throughout the primary and general election races, Bikers for Trump often served as unofficial security at campaign events and policed sometimes-wild demonstrations at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

The bikers never took it upon themselves to break up demonstrations but provided a barrier — the so-called “wall of meat” — between Trump supporters and protesters.

At the inauguration the bikers stood down rather than provoke confrontations with the thousands of protesters, including Black Lives Matter and anarchists who joined DisruptJ20.

“Regardless of their protesting, at the end of the day, Trump’s going to be the president. So I’ve asked my guys, ‘If during our rally they come up and protest, just chuckle at them,’” Mr. Cox said.

“It’s our victory dance. It’s a celebration,” he said. “The media just wants to talk to me about the disrupters, what we’re going to do and so forth, but we won, and we are playing a much different role here than we did in Cleveland.”

At a nearby security checkpoint to access the park and the inaugural parade route, a line of young black women chained themselves together in front of the entrance. Other protesters linked arms and blocked the entrance, chanting “go home!” at people attempting to watch the inauguration.

“We’re not blocking people’s freedom. We have freedom to do this,” said Michaela Brown, 24, a Black Lives Matter leader from Baltimore who was leading the demonstration.

“We’ve got to stop this B.S. that Trump is going to put in place,” she said. “We’re demanding the liberty and freedom we deserve.”

The bikers shrugged off the protests.

“Our work isn’t trying to silence protests,” said Mr. Cox. “We’re going to spin our wheels trying to do something positive.”

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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