Hundreds Of Bikers In Northern Nevada Protest Sisolak's COVID-19 Response

Sep 27, 2020

Like most large events in Nevada, Street Vibrations was canceled this year due to restrictions on public gatherings put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. But, some bikers participated in their own version of the event over the weekend.

Hundreds of bikers came from across Nevada and California to take part in the ride. They drove through Reno and Virginia City.

Some riders wore this shirt made for the “Sisolak Sucks Street Vibrations Rally,” in Reno, Nev., on Saturday, Sept. 26.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio

The Street Vibrations Fall Rally 2020 was supposed to take place over the weekend, but the organizers said in a statement that their special event application was denied because the event would exceed Governor Steve Sisolak’s limit of 50-person gatherings.

In response, the bikers gathered for their own ride, which they called the “Sisolak Sucks Street Vibrations Rally.”

Many criticized Sisolak for his COVID-19 response, including Kim Johansen from Winnemucca.

Kim Johansen at the “Sisolak Sucks Street Vibrations Rally,” in Reno, Nev., on Saturday, Sept. 26.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio

“He shut down our economy, and he's devastating our small businesses, and he needs to lift the mask mandate, and get everybody back to work,” Johansen said.

Johansen is a behavior analyst and said she’s been out of work since mid-March.

“I haven't been able to work at all because I work generally in the schools and they won't allow third parties on school campuses,” Johansen said.

Johansen applied for unemployment benefits and said it took six weeks for her to receive them. She wants the governor to step down.

But for others, the bike ride was less political.

Tony Islas rode about six hours from Monterey, California. He’s attended Street Vibrations rallies for about 15 years.

Tony Islas (Left) at the “Sisolak Sucks Street Vibrations Rally,” in Reno, Nev., on Saturday, Sept. 26.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio

“It's just a tradition. We come every year. We love the ride, that's what it's all about,” Islas said.

The pandemic has devastated Reno’s tourism economy. Street Vibrations is just one event that brings in millions of dollars from food, drinks, gaming and hotel rooms.

“We always spend maybe 15, two grand every year,” Islas said, “Sometimes people's bikes break will break, the Harley stores makes bank. Last year I spent $1500 on my bike alone,” Islas said.

Street Vibrations is scheduled to resume in 2021.

Sisolak’s office did not respond to requests for comment in time for this story.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.