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Monday, October 2, 2017

Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs

OFF THE WIRE
Before a person can begin to understand the importance of an Outlaw Motorcycle Club (OMCs), they must understand what that is. An Outlaw Motorcycle Club is a very unique societyof very few men who choose to be a part of something bigger than themselves and a brotherhood beyond any that cannot be found elsewhere. Its origin and structure evolved from the Military many years ago, utilizing the leadership structure and rank system. Furthermore, there is a very unique few who make up the 1% er Outlaw Motorcycle Club community. Clubs such as the Bandidos, Hells Angels, Outlaws, Pagans, Mongols, and Sons of Silence are all a part of the 1%er Motorcycle Club community. The 1 % er designation was labeled by the AMA (American Motorcycle Association) back in 1947 in a statement they wrote for their magazine, stating that 99% of motorcycle riders were law abiding citizens and that only 1% were criminals (“AMA 1947”).
          The earliest form of Outlaw was Jesus Christ himself, it’s because Jesus didn’t fit into           the religious mold, or the government mold like the other 99% of society. Jesus and               his followers were the 1% that didn’t “bow down” to the worlds ways. They were in               the world, but not of the world.  Jesus was an outlaw, but he was not a criminal.                       Being an “outlaw” doesn’t mean you are a criminal; it just means you don’t conform             to the world system or its leaders and its officers. (Ridenour)
Many people will disagree with the importance of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs. This is largely due to the lack of understanding and positive exposure to what these clubs do for our communities and some will dispute the negative claims while maintaining the integrity of their beliefs of the OMCs.
        Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs date as far back as post World War II era when soldiers came home longing for continued brotherhood. They have always played a major role in urban cities social culture. Their existence, although grotesque to some, has always served their communities in a positive light. The actions of individuals at times are spotlighted by the media, which often is government driven, to gain support for banning identifying patches (also known as colors) of the OMCs. For example, the U.S.’s ATF agency tried to ban the Mongols Motorcycle Club’s patches in 2013. However, it would have broken the First Amendment rights of the club (Girardot).  The Government wanted to ban the club from being able to wear their patches publically, due to a few incidents of select individuals who are most likely not in the club anymore, since Clubs often police their own. OMCs all follow strict guidelines or bylaws which consist of their rules and regulations. If a member disobeys these rules, they can be punished by being stripped of their patches then banned from the club. It is possible the Government is afraid of these clubs around the U.S., because of their open display of unity and commitment. They are men willing to stand their ground, even against the court system, to fight for rights, as a whole. These men are veterans, fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, and uncles. The rights they fight to protect are the same rights that affect non club members, other motorcycle riders, as well as, the general public.
      There are many positive examples of these OMCs, that many only see in a negative light.One such positive example was the Hells Angels Toy run of 2015, where the club gathered funds that had been raised throughout the year to purchase a large number of bicycles (“Hells Angels Toys 2015”). They waited in line at Walmart for 5 days to catch the Black Friday sale and bought every bike in stock, roughly 200 bikes, in order to give bicycles to children whose families were too poor to purchase them themselves. Acts like this one can be seen throughout the United States by clubs of all levels. Clubs range from Christian Clubs, Veteran Clubs, Support Clubs, and OMC’s. All of which contain some of the biggest-hearted men and women one could ever meet. These are the types of people who manage fundraisers for burn victims, families who have lost their homes, children with special needs, and even the elderly.
        Make no mistake, these Clubs are not the Boy Scouts; they abide by a strict code and rules of the road protocol (Devereaux). At times incidents can occur by the acts of individuals that belong to these organizations. These incidents are often made to be more serious than they really are, and some are no worse than the crimes committed by the arresting authority or an average civilian. On May 17th of 2015 in Waco, Texas, men and woman from all clubs throughout the state of Texas gathered for a Coalition of Clubs meeting, which is to educate riders both independent and Patch holders within clubs of current laws and policies that may or may not affect them. It is also a social gathering amongst riders, and information is commonly shared about upcoming events and benefits. On this day, shots rang out, leaving nine people dead and another eighteen wounded. According to Brian Doherty, who writes for GQ, a grand total of 177 individuals were wrongfully arrested. To this day, it has yet to be proven that the gunfight that broke out started with shots fired from club members, and no police officer has been charged with illegitimate arrest or excessive force. Reports indicate that the first couple of shots were small arms fire, and the rest that followed were all automatic weapons, but no one has been able to identify the first shooter (Doherty). Everyone present that day was arrested, including both civilians and members of Motorcycle Ministries, all of which are innocent and spent a great deal of time in jail with extremely high bails. An interview was conducted by KXANS Brian Collister with Bandido Jimmy Graves, who is the Coalition of Clubs President in Waco, where he expressed the Bandidos recognize and respect law enforcement for doing their job, that they do not condone the violence portrayed upon them (“Bandidos”).  “To get the story crooked is to understand that the “straightness” of any story is a rhetorical invention: a story told from a particular perspective, informed by specific trainings told for a particular reason, to serve particular purposes. History is at best a reasoned report on the documented sources of the past” (Kellner 18).

        Members of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs are professionals; they may not look like professionals by some individuals’ standards, because they are bikers. Despite the positive actions of club members, the media still portrays them in a negative light by focusing on the bad behavior of a few; for this reason alone, bad behavior and negative publicity is not condoned by clubs or members. The 1%er clubs often police the activities of the clubs within their area to ensure they are “behaving” accordingly and following protocol within the community of clubs. If they do not do this, then there is the possibility of individuals creating negative chaos in the area in which they reside, causing the local law enforcement to crack down on all bikers and provoke unlawful use of force. In turn, the 1%er Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs are protecting the local community in which they reside by protecting all bikers and keeping the negative activities to a minimum. If more individuals would spend time amongst these men, they would see, with their own eyes, the good they do for the community, and all of the charity events along with donations raised to help people in need. They would also see the love and the brotherhood shared by the members of these Clubs as well as the bonds from club to club. These men are the kind of men filled with passion to fight to make things like brotherhood and sisterhood possible by protecting an individual’s rights and protecting people in need, helping friends and strangers alike, standing tall for freedom, love, loyalty, respect, and trust. In which they believe, in a very powerful and sometimes intimidating force. Similar to a battalion of soldiers on the battlefield who have gone to fight and protect what they believe to be right. While protecting these rights, they provide a blanket of freedom for others to sleep under. A positive impression from an experience in this community could help to spread a positive influence throughout our society. This influence would encourage society to stand together to help others in need, even those who are members of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs.