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Incident creates rift between car groups, Rochester businesses

A March 12 incident that required Rochester police has local businesses saying no to parking lot meetings.

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Kaan Avci, of Rochester, is one of the organizers of the car group Rochester Minnesota Car Scene. Avci said that the group was recently told they could no longer meet up in parking lots where they've been meeting for years after another group trashed the lot. Avci said they want to support local businesses, and the last thing they want is to hurt someone's livelihood. Avci is photographed Monday, March 22, 2021, in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
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ROCHESTER, Minn. — The Rochester Car Scene group, comprised of more than 1,500 Facebook members throughout southeastern Minnesota, has spent the last several years building a community that gathers a few times a week in Rochester to meet and appreciate each other’s company and vehicles.

But the group’s name has been spread over social media lately, and not in a good way.

When Rochester Police were called on March 12 to break up a meetup at a Wal-Mart parking lot, it put the group’s reputation in jeopardy, and caused local businesses to seek ways to keep the car groups from meeting in their lots.

“I mean, there were like 1,500 of us, and we just were sad,” Car Scene organizer Kaan Avci said after police informed the group about new restrictions regarding parking lot use. “I don't know, like, there's no way to describe it … I'm trying to cheer people up, but it took us a really long time to gather everyone and get this group going.”

The incident occurred when 30 to 40 Car Scene members met in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Southern Automotive, a more truck-focused group in Rochester, along with another truck group from Red Wing, also converged on the lot.

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The truck drivers began driving erratically, doing burnouts, revving their engines and loitering in the lot. Avci said that when things began escalating, Car Scene members began to leave, and the police showed up.

Robert Yennie, 29, hosted the event for Southern Automotive and admits the evening got out of hand with truck members, specifically the Red Wing members.

“I was not expecting people to go crazy,” Yennie said. “I should have posted something on the page saying please be respectful. We asked them to stop, but they still did it anyway. There’s really nothing to stop them.”

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Kaan Avci, of Rochester, is one of the organizers of the car group Rochester Minnesota Car Scene. Avci said that the group was recently told they could no longer meet up in parking lots where they've been meeting for years after another group trashed the lot. Avci said they want to support local businesses, and the last thing they want is to hurt someone's livelihood. Avci is photographed Monday, March 22, 2021, in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

The same weekend, Avci and other members of Car Scene went back to the parking lot and spent three hours cleaning up the mess that had been left. Avci said he hoped this would help cleanse the group’s reputation and separate it from the other groups there.

While Rochester Facebook groups responded positively to posts about cleaning up the parking lot, the damage to their reputation — and their ability to meet in Rochester — had already been done.

“I feel like it just labeled us there and then. We’re just stuck with it now,” Avci said.

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Rochester police spokesperson Amanda Grayson confirmed that businesses have filed trespass authorizations in response to the gatherings. Grayson said the authorizations grant police the authority to move people along when someone calls to complain.

“So basically, if someone calls to complain about cars racing, revving engines, etc. in parking lots owned by the businesses who’ve filed trespass authorizations, police have permission from the property owners to tell the vehicle owners to leave,” Grayson said in an email.

The Car Scene and Southern Automotive groups have been trying to find new meetup locations since learning of the filings this weekend. The Car Scene group is sponsored by Los Arcos Kitchen and Cantina near the Rochester International Airport, and the restaurant is still granting the group access to its parking lot.

It’s part of their goal to help support local businesses, but now many of those businesses don’t want the group near its establishment. Avci and Yennie both said they understand the concerns businesses have.

But Avci has this message for local businesses with concerns about Rochester Car Scene: “We've been here for years, and we're not here to cause any harm,” he said. “It's a community that revolves around Olmsted County and Rochester, and we're here to support them as well because, at the end of the day, they're part of our community.”

Erich is a digital content producer at the Post Bulletin where he creates content for the Post Bulletin's digital platforms. Before he moved to Rochester, Erich worked as a sports reporter for Rivals.com covering the University of Illinois' athletic programs in Champaign, Illinois. Readers can reach Erich at 507-285-7681 or efisher@postbulletin.com.
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