PORTAGE | Byron Boyd is well aware of the intimidating appearance and unsavory reputation of he and the other members of the Northern Indiana chapter of the Invaders motorcycle club.
Yet he is still surprised by what he calls the city's ongoing efforts to run the group out of a small commercial building along U.S. 20 it opened as a clubhouse a few months ago.
Boyd, who serves as chapter president, believes the opposition is fueled by James Snyder taking over as mayor this year.
"What's curious, I'm a Republican," Boyd said. "I voted for the guy."
The city filed a lawsuit recently seeking to remove the club from the building at 6720 Melton Road based on accusations the building is not zoned for a clubhouse and the owner failed to obtain a required certificate of occupancy, city attorney Gregg Sobkowski said.
"Those ordinances apply to all properties and ought to be applied uniformly," Sobkowski said.
Snyder declined requests to comment on the issue.
Boyd said while the Invaders was founded in Portage in 1965, this is the group's first clubhouse in Porter County. The group is using the site for business meetings and parties, he said, and not for illegal activities.
The group did have some run-ins several years ago with another motorcycle club, but a truce has been in place the past six or seven years, he said. He also said the club was unfairly linked to a meth ring a few years ago despite that only two of the people implicated were members.
The club prohibits members from injecting drugs, smoking crack cocaine or using substances such as bath salts, he said. Boyd said he has been a member of the club for 43 years and has no criminal convictions.
The club members just want to be left alone to do their own thing, he said. That includes watching out for one another.
"It's people that will stand up for you no matter what," Boyd said.
Despite their wishes to be left alone, club members do draw attention to themselves, most notably from police. Boyd said a couple of members were singled out in Portage recently among a large group of bikers and cited under city code for not wearing helmets.
Portage Police Chief Troy Williams, who issued the citations, said they since have been rescinded because city law may not supersede state law, which does not require helmets.
He denied singling out the Invaders members.
"We're out there trying to make the city of Portage safer," Williams said.
Boyd said club members also were singled out during last year's Porter County Fair and were forced to leave for wearing club vests.
Porter County Sheriff Dave Lain, who also denied targeting the Invaders, said all club or gang "colors" are prohibited from the fair to avoid conflicts between groups.
"If people abide by the law, they are welcome to be productive citizens in Porter County," Lain said. "If not, people are going to have a problem with law enforcement."