Story and photos by Mike Madriaga
The American flag barely moved on August 2. The sound of thunder wasn’t from the gloomy skies above, but from a caravan of motorcycles here in town for national Bikers for Christ weekend.
“Close to 400 bikes showed up to our gathering this day,” said Pastor Z, the organizer of the meeting atop Mount Soledad. Bikers trekked from as far as New Mexico, Texas, and Nevada; Bikers for Christ membership spans all 50 states and to 23 countries. “My brothers from Bikers for Christ helped make this happen, and let’s not forget the support of our Jesus Christ!”
Pastor Z and Machete star Danny Trejo were greeted by American war veterans at the top of the stairs. Pastor Z pulled out his megaphone and whispered, “We are going to start this off the right way, with a word of prayer.”
A big dude down on the grassy section yelled, “I can’t hear #@it,” which caused a few indistinct shouts from others in the crowd.
Many of the bikers present were angered about the prospect of the cross being removed. One of the Vietnam vet bikers stepped up and yelled, “When they take this [cross] down, I’m going to be the first to lay down. When they take me and my bike away, who amongst you will replace me?” Many of his brethren stepped forward.
“I am very proud to be an American, I love my country, I’m patriotic, and I salute the flag,” calmly says Pastor Z, a Vietnam era veteran, who was in the Attack Squadron 174 (VA-174) also known as the “Hellrazors.”
Pastor Fred Gorini, a vet from the 1st Calvary-Army in Vietnam, speaks into the megaphone, “The good book says, ‘Don’t remove the ancient landmarks that your forefathers have set!’”
I found one guy who opposed the cross. Paul M., an atheist and a 20-year military veteran dressed in civilian clothes. Paul’s soft-spoken response to why he is opposed to the cross’ presence was, “We need to separate church and state,” but when I asked what bothered him about the cross, he responded, “Because I do not believe in —”
We were then split by a group of bikers walking between us. “Mike,” yelled one of them, “let’s get some grub at the Harley spot on Kearny.” I was happy to oblige. But when I looked for Paul to continue the interview, he had disappeared into the crowd. As I looked to interview more people from the other side of the issue, the rainfall increased. I covered my camera gear and ran to my car. As I loaded up my gear, Paul found me and finished up his take on the cross.
“Back then, this cross did not signify a war memorial,” he said. “It was built to scare away the Jewish community!” After talking to Paul for a few more minutes, the rain subsided and the cul-de-sac was back to normal with mostly tourists roaming about.
I spotted Trejo and Pastor Z putting on their helmets. Before Trejo got on his bike, he turned to the camera and said, “Can’t touch a war memorial — remember that — or Machete will come looking for you!”
Pastor Z had no threat, but a suggestion: “I will stand up for the values of our country, if people get offended by what this country was founded upon, they might want to consider moving.”