Patriot Guard Members Address Midland City Council Leaders About Special Events Ordinance

Patriot Guard Members Address Midland City Council Leaders About Special Events Ordinance

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - The Midland City Council meeting was filled with emotion on Tuesday morning as members of the Patriot Guard pled with Tall City leaders to hear them out.

It all stems from wording in a new special events ordinance.

The Patriot Guard said it threatens their mission of honoring our nation's heroes.

"We ride for the friends I lost in Vietnam," Bill McNeil said with his voice cracking. "We ride and nobody gets charged for it because it's already been paid for in blood."

Tears and cheers filled the Midland City Council chambers Tuesday morning.

Patriot Guard members lined City Hall, demanding to be heard.

"Jumping through a hoop to get a waiver so we can honor a kid that was killed fighting for this country is ridiculous," McNeil said.

Mayor Wes Perry and company listened to several members about why the city's special events ordinance should be changed.

The ordinance requires any organization hosting a parade or special event to get a permit and a $2 million insurance policy that covers participants and spectators.

The Patriot Guard said they can't afford it because they're a non-profit group.

"We are definitely not a parade," McNeil said. "We are an honor ride."

"I understand the city wanted to protect themselves from an incident like what happened but in reality, these events have gone on for years without incident," Claudette Wattingham said.

Although no changes were made to the ordinance at Tuesday's meeting, leaders did unanimously vote to look into getting general liability insurance that covers any special event inside the city.

The Patriot Guard will still have to apply for a permit and ask for an insurance waiver for any event until city council members can discuss possible changes at their next meeting.

City officials tell NewsWest 9 they want to work with the organization.

"What we're going to try to do here in the next couple of weeks is finding out ways that we can find that really delicately balance of how we can do what we need to do to keep our communities and our members safe and not making it too difficult for people to hold those sort of events," City of Midland Public Information Officer, Sara Higgins, said. "What the Patriot Guard riders do is so important to our community."

Patriot Guard members say they'd like to be exempt from the ordinance altogether.

But for now, they're remaining optimistic.

"Their discussions in there sounded very positive," Wattingham said.

"It's not a win yet. It's not in black and white but it is the beginning," Teresa Galloway said.

City Council members will re-visit this issue at their next meeting on April ninth.