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Movie recalls 1980 Lincoln incident; Lincoln County Massacre includes BOTW interviews

CHARLESTON - A film recalling a high profile 1980 incident in Lincoln County, where state police were alleged to have beaten members of a motorcycle club, recently won the “Director’s Choice” and “Audience Choice” titles at the West Virginia Filmmakers Festival.

Documentary filmmaker Elaine McMillion from Charleston began shooting the film in 2009 with members and founders of the AMA Club Brothers of the Wheel (BOTW). The club has chapters in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

The 1980 incident is chronicled in the movie, titled Lincoln County Massacre. In a communication to The Lincoln Journal recently, McMillion explained that, “through historical and contemporary footage, Lincoln County Massacre tells the story of the hours leading up to April 19, 1980 when troopers of the West Virginia State Police allegedly beat members of the motorcycle club.”

The movie was picked as an Official Selection for the recent festival and was premiered on Saturday, September 30, 2011 at the Elk Theatre in Sutton. The screening had a turnout of around 150, according to McMillion.
“The documentary retraces the events that led to the arrest of 15 people, the hospitalization of three and a federal lawsuit against the State Police,” said McMillion. “The film focuses on the members who founded BOTW in Milton, and chronicles how stereotypes of ‘bikers’ in the mass media, television and movies at the time affected their goals as a charity organization,” she explained. The filmmaker interviewed several Lincoln County residents for the 57-minute film.
Among those from Lincoln County interviewed for the movie were eyewitnesses Bill Hudson, Naomi Smith and Brenda Tabor Cook, as well as Katie Thacker, Nick “Red Bird” McCoy and Jerry Lucas.

“When I first started researching the film I did not realize how many serious issues I wouldturnover. During production, I met a lot of resistance from residents, police and bikers. Not everyone wanted to speak about the night. The interviews with people have been very emotional, with grown men shedding tears thinking about the night over 30 years ago,” said McMillion.

She also remarked that death has been an obstacle. In the decades that have passed, since the incident, many subjects involved in the incident have died including Judge Dennis Knapp, Attorneys Edward Eardley, Thomas Trent, Bob Bland, Buddy Covert, Investigator Cecil Harold and biker Donnie Hill, as well as neighbors, eyewitnesses and law enforcement officials.

“When I began meeting the bikers from BOTW and The Bootleggers, I learned how this event affected each of them differently. Some can laugh at it now, while others still cry recalling the night,” said McMillion. “Some moved on quickly, while others became suicidal and abused drugs and alcohol. I have learned that one thing they all have in common is their love for the open ride and riding,” she continued.

The director also remarked on the broader issue of police brutality in Lincoln County. “Once I began talking to residents, I found out that this was not an isolated event; but instead police brutality is an issue that many people in Lincoln County dealt with and continue to deal with,” said McMillion. “Neighbors and residents have discussed with me the power the state police and court system has over helpless residents, mainly the poor who can’t defend themselves. There is no way around it, this story had to be told. I hope this film will give voice to the bikers and the Lincoln County residents who are brave enough to speak out,” she continued. The film was directed, produced and edited by McMillion and co-produced by Alum Creek resident, Justin Gillispie. After graduating with a BS in News Editorial Journalism from West Virginia University and working in the field of newspapers for three years, McMillion left the world of journalism to pursue a career in non-fiction film. She is the co-director and co-producer of “The Lower 9,” a film about the culture and community of the lower ninth ward of New Orleans. In 2010, she entered the Masters of Fine Arts program for Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College. She currently works at Northern Light Prod-uctions and is a freelance video editor and producer in Boston, MA.

Further information on the movie can be found at the movie’s Facebook page. A second run of DVDs is expected to be available in early 2012, the first batch having sold out recently.

The April 23, 1980 issue of The Lincoln Journal reported extensively on the incident. According to that account, eight of 15 members of two clubs were arraigned in magistrate court on Monday, 21 charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest, following an early morning raid by state troopers at the White House Tavern near Salt Rock. “Members of the club have charged police brutality as a result of the incident, during which they claim to have been beaten without cause,” says the report. A total of 25 state troopers, from five counties, were said to have taken part in the raid.

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