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In suit against Solano County, East Bay Dragons motorcycle club allege racism was behind canceled fairgrounds event

Show was to include famous musicians, comedian

VALLEJO — The East Bay Dragons, the first all-Black motorcycle club to exist in the Bay Area, has filed a federal lawsuit against Solano County alleging that a county employee concocted a reason to cancel a planned club event at the fairgrounds after hearing that one of its members had associations with the Black Panthers.

The suit, filed last June, claims that the Dragons planned a 60th anniversary event at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo that was to be attended by at least 3,800 people and would have featured an impressive lineup of music and comedy. Instead, the event was canceled at the last minute, after the Dragons had spent thousands in fees and planning.

Now the club is suing to recoup those funds, which includes cash to pay for the planned list of featured rappers, singers, and comedian: Whodini, Too Short, Doug E Fresh, Richie Rich, Dru Down, Tony Tone Toni, and Mark Curry, according to the civil complaint.

The suit is still in its early stages. The county has not responded in court. The fairgrounds’ CFO, Mike Ioakimedes, said he has not yet reviewed the suit with his attorney and declined to comment.

According to the lawsuit, the trouble for the planned August 2019 event started when a county employee learned that a member of the Dragons owned It’s All Good Bakery in Oakland, located at 5622 Martin Luther King Way, the Black Panthers’ first headquarters. The bakery’s website says its founder, Kim Clark, is proud of that fact because his family benefited from the Panthers’ free breakfast program as kids.

According to the suit, all of this was a problem for the employee, who allegedly remarked that the Black Panthers were “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” and started working to cancel the Dragons’ event.

As a result of this, the suit alleges, fairgrounds staff invented the ruse that there was a credible threat to the safety of the event, “but there was no credible threat at all.”

“This insidious belief of EBD’s threat traveled all the way to Oakland and with the help of the Oakland Police Department, and at the conclusion of the 60th anniversary celebration, on September 2, 2019, the EBD were surrounded by Oakland Police Department officers due to racist motives as they were enjoying themselves at Level 13 in Oakland,” the civil complaint says.

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 29: East Bay Dragons Motorcycle Club members pose for a group photo before their meeting at the East Bay Dragons Motorcycle Club in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. The club is turning 60 years this weekend at the same and only location it was founded in East Oakland in 1959. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

The Dragons were founded in the 1950s as a car club, but switched over to motorcycles in 1959. Their founder, Tobie Gene Levingston, remained president until his death last year.

In East Oakland, the biker club is beloved, said Councilman Larry Reid, who said the group’s clubhouse in his district on International Boulevard has produced food distribution on Thanksgivings and toy drives during Christmas.

“The East Bay Dragons are an incredible organization,” Reid said. “They really interact with the young kids out here in East Oakland and with families.”

Reid said the Dragons have held events at the Oakland Zoo and never faced complaints except about the noise of their motorcycles.

“If you came out here and talked to folks, no one is going to say anything negative about the East Bay Dragons,” Reid said. “They’d only talk about the good things they do and how they are positive role models for our children.”