Motorcycle Week attendees carrying guns, feel safe in large crowd despite Orlando massacre
LACONIA — The 93rd annual Motorcycle Week is well underway, but Sunday's attack in Orlando was a reminder that anywhere can be a target for those looking to do harm.
The annual rally is expected to bring hundreds of thousands of people to the Lakes Region, and local authorities are taking this weekend’s events very seriously when planning their security detail.
“We’ve been planning motorcycle week for many, many years,” said Matthew Canfield, Laconia Police Captain. “We look at it, we evaluate it every year, and we certainly combine that with the ever-changing times, threats across the country, and actually across the world. We assess those events on a continual basis and then we use that as a base for what to do next year.”
Attendees at the rally on Monday said they were horrified to learn what happened in Florida, but they were not concerned about anything like that happening this week in Laconia.
“I feel perfectly safe here,” said David Berman. “Most of us know how to protect ourselves.”
Berman also said many people who go to the rally carry their own weapons.
“I want my family safe, I want everybody here safe, I want everybody in the country safe,” said George “Beaver” Pennachio, who occasionally carries a gun. “I want to walk the streets without worrying. We need to get back to those times.”
Pennachio said the motorcycle community is very tight-knit, and if anything were to happen, its members wouldn’t hesitate to protect each other.
A staple at Motorcycle Week is the wide variety of vendors, who travel the country attending various rallies.
Betsy Ramos works with Motorcycle Rally USA. She’s originally from Puerto Rico but lives in Florida and knows two of the people killed in the Orlando attack.
“This is very secure," Ramos said. "I have to say...especially in the morning. I mean, if you’re not a vendor you cannot come in. So here people are taking precautions and I feel very safe here.”
The presence of firearms doesn’t deter or scare Ramos. In fact, it makes her feel more comfortable as she works.
“It’s all part of it,” she said. “I think you’re gonna see more people taking care of themselves and getting protection. I don’t see that as a bad thing.”
There have been no connections found between the Orlando shooter and New Hampshire, but state and local authorities are being extra cautious. Gov. Hassan has offered “additional presence and resources” to Motorcycle Week and is asking everyone be even more vigilant when it comes to safety.
As the week goes on, the Laconia Police Department is taking these recommendations seriously and continuing to follow the security plan it made, which includes asking for the public’s help.
“In this ever-changing world of terrorism, domestic terrorism and home-grown extremists, I would definitely encourage anybody, to if you see something suspicious, to say something,” Canfield said. “If it turns out to be nothing, then it’s nothing. That’s a great day.”