Sturgis Motorcycle Rally kicked off in the western part of South Dakota on Friday, leading to 84 arrests in one day, according to a report.
The annual rally, which the city council decided would go ahead in June, has drawn thousands of bikers to the state from all over the country, many without masks or social distancing in mind.
“I’ve been here since the beginning of July,” one store owner told CBS News. “People are tired of being at home, you know. This is what this rally started about is freedom.”
One rider who rode in from Arizona said that while he didn’t want to die, “I don’t want to be cooped up all my life either”. Attendees are reportedly being encouraged, but not required, to wear masks.
Despite the rally expecting half the capacity of a normal year, at 250,000 riders, the numbers of arrests, warnings, citations, and crashes are consistent with last year, The Argus Leader reported.
The newspaper reported that 84 people had been arrested across Sturgis and Rapid City District in a 24-hour period spanning from Saturday into Sunday morning.
Twenty-six of those people have been arrested for driving under the influence, in comparison to 22 this time last year, according to the newspaper.
A combined 58 people were arrested on misdemeanour and felony drug arrests, 17 of them felonies, statistics from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety showed.
Since the 10-day event began, police in the region have reported 18 crashes, which is down from last year’s mark of 20. None have been fatal.
On 15 June, city council members voted eight to one to forge ahead with the 80-year tradition, with governor Kristi Noem endorsing the event on Twitter.
“#Sturgis2020 kicks off today. Welcome to South Dakota! Our state had the Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration,” she said.
“We’ve been ‘back to normal’ for over three months, and South Dakota is in a good spot.”
Average new daily cases reported in South Dakota have risen in recent weeks, with the state recording 7,600 infections in total. Just over 100 have reportedly died in the state since the pandemic began.
Nationwide, the country has surpassed five million infections, leading the world in coronavirus cases, meaning in 66 residents is infected, according to an analysis by Reuters.