“We were not just trying to throw a bunch of people in jail to send a message,” he said. “These people are trying to disrupt the peace and tranquility of the public, then put their exploits on social media. We won’t be deterred by these dismissals.”

From bad to worse

“They’ve become more belligerent, more dangerous,” she said. “The people on this street hate them.”

“It’s understating the problem to simply call this drag racing,” Police Chief William McManus said. “Some people may have started their evening at a car meet, but it turned into blocking streets, starting fires, assaulting police and creating havoc around the city.”

Levi Lewis, president and founder of one such club, Alamo City LX Modern Mopar, said the element causing problems “is really just ruining it for everybody.”

“Especially now, during the pandemic, can’t we just be a community?” Coben asked. “Can’t we just be kind to one another?”

“Just a year ago, it was unheard of” for car meet participants to confront police, SAPD spokesman Sgt. Matt Brown said. “But now they are more aggressive and it’s become very dangerous at some of those locations.”

Charges rejected


McManus acknowledged group arrests can be “problematic” and said he wished the department didn’t have to “dedicate resources that could be put to better use in our neighborhoods.”

“The details do truly matter,” she said. “We don’t treat these arrests differently because they may have been part of a group. Every case is on the same footing.”

Young, the public defender, said it was unprecedented for so many related cases to be dismissed for lack of probable cause and that among his staff that night a note went out saying, “Be prepared for a bunch of subpar riot charges.”

Bad night out


“Fancy rims, loud music, nice cars,” Perez said. “Yeah, there might have been some hot guys, but for us it wasn’t any kind of dating thing. … It would be rare for us to even get out of our vehicles. We just enjoyed ourselves. My stepmom is in a car club, so I’ve seen them, but that was the first I had participated in.”

“Everyone treated everyone like family that night,” said Alvarez, a hairstylist. “I saw older people there, babies … I stayed in the car. I was cold. I’m not really a talkative person.”

“So we drove onto Hillcrest (exiting the parking lot) and that’s when the cops cut us off,” she said. “I was having an anxiety attack. I had never been arrested before. I’m a mom and I was scared.”

Alvarez was charged with the class B misdemeanor of “riot engagement,” but her case was among those rejected by magistrates. She was released to her grandmother at 6:03 a.m.

Old school


On Facebook, one mainstream organization, San Antonio Car Meets, with some 24,000 members, prominently displays this notice: “Posts related to local street racing are not allowed. Do not post call-outs, shout-outs (for street racing), or any type of post looking for the person you raced on the local roads.”

The opposite code prevails on a Facebook page called “San Antonio car meets (No rules)”— which has changed its name six times since 2018, twice opting for “(Some Rules).”

“This is the Original SACM dont get lost into the haters from the other page where they turn in your plates to the local Police Department. this is a place for Car meets where revving & burnouts are greatly encouraged!”

The group highly recommends racing, it continued, and “if you have beef with someone then we might as well make a meet so yall can settle it no one gets kick off here.”

Like others, Lewis believes social media can bring out the worst tendencies of drivers who want to become “instafamous.”

It’s a nationwide problem, he said, adding, “We’re seeing the tip of that element bubbling up and it’s happening in front of everybody.”