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Graham Nash (of CSN&Y fame) wrote “Teach Your Children”, “Lady Of The Island” and “Right Between The Eyes” in ONE night.  He was on tour with the Hollies, was frustrated and sick of making pop music.  He wanted to write songs with meanings…and these three came out.

All we’ve got is time and I don’t want to waste yours.  But, you see Graham had a passion.  Maybe it’s a baby boomer thing.  Encouraged by their parents.  They were the first generation who could be something more.

Speaking of “Teach Your Children”… I rode down to Reno for the Street Vibration motorcycle rally.  The good news;  there were no deaths in the 84 crashes investigated by Nevada Highway Patrol.  There were 23 arrests made during the 5-day Street Vibration motorcycle rally with a total of 1,396 traffic enforcement stops.

The bad news; and one that all motorcycle enthusiasts should care about was the motorcycle club-on-club casino shooting at John Ascuaga’s Nugget which left one person dead (Jeffrey  “Jethro” Pettigrew, HAMC President (San Jose Chapter)) and two members of the Vagos MC (Leonard Ramirez & Diego Garcia) injured in the hospital.  I wasn’t there during the Friday night shooting because Randy Burke of Roadshow Productions really pulled out all the stops to make this year the best-of-the-best and I was in downtown Reno enjoying everything that Street Vibrations had to offer.  You see, last year was a rather dismal affair which I coined as “Street Frustrations” so, props to Randy… this year had all the markings to be a really great event.   Except for that little brazen and almost “drug cartel” style casino shooting.  Police reports indicate there were about 60 Vagos and a dozen HAMC on the casino video tapes.  It’s reminiscent of the Laughlin River Run melee of a few years ago between the HAMC and the Mongols MC.  There was one arrest of a HAMC member, Cesar Villagrana on a suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon charge. [Note: The incident in Nevada isn’t Villagrana’s first run-in with the law. Following a March 17 collision in Aptos, CA. – for which Villagrana was found to be at fault – he made Santa Cruz headlines when the California Highway Patrol discovered the Gilroy Hells Angel was carrying an unregistered Beretta handgun. The discovery of the weapon came after Villagrana collided his 2002 Harley Davidson with a Honda and Toyota on Soquel Drive near State Park Drive in Aptos, according to CHP Spokeswoman Sarah Jackson.  The Associated Press reports state Villagrana has been out of custody, and pleaded not guilty in May to charges of carrying a loaded gun not registered to him and being an active Hells Angels gang member. Source HERE]

Police Block Off Victorian Square

And I predict just like Laughlin, Street Vibrations will now forever be changed.  First will be the citizen calls to cancel the event.  But, capitalism will prevail and a change will occur under the broad brush of security and the need for an “abundance of caution” to tamp down or avoid any possibility of club violence.  Higher tax payer costs associated with security.  Higher hotel fees for attendees to cover the increased cost of security.  Higher vendor fees to cover security costs.  They city will implement a NO COLORS rule and it will go into effect.  Wrist bands to enter the hotel lobby.  Wrist bands and hotel keys to enter elevators.  Long waits to exit the hotel parking garages due to security validation of rider/owner to motorcycle.  Random road blocks and searches.  SWAT, Counterterrorism Unit and Gang Enforcement Teams will have a presence reminiscent of a military-dictator bent on keeping power.  You watch. It will be costly to the average rider.

Vendor Booths at Carson City H-D

Club business is none of my business, but when the public is exposed to an increase in the number of individuals who are willing to carry and fire guns indiscriminately around a public casino are we to just ignore the incident and continue on with breakfast plans and t-shirt buying as if it didn’t happen?  And where was the law enforcement intelligence?  And isn’t the casino security somewhat at fault?  Didn’t they get a clue when a dozen HAMC arrived at the Vagos base-camp that a fight might break out?

And then there are the financial ramifications.  This year in Reno, Virginia Street had about 55 vendors which was limited by the Reno City recreation officials for security reasons.  The majority, about 120 vendors were in Sparks.  And as you can image the vendors spend a lot of money for hotels, permits, food and gas to set up for Street Vibrations.  The biggest day of sales are typically Saturday, however, after the previous night’s shooting the Sparks mayor declared a state of emergency (to get and receive additional police enforcement resources as well as enforce a curfew) and then after a retaliation shooting Saturday morning of a Vagos MC member (Shane Smith) who was walking on Victorian Avenue they made the decision to closed down the event, including all vendor booths in Victorian Square.  What was surely a difficult business decision in light of the economic circumstances, but none the less many riders thought was good one considering the real or perceived retaliation rumors swirling around the area.

LEO Presence Post HAMC/VAGOS Shooting

It’s not clear if Street Vibrations can survive.  For Roadshow Inc., the event production company, it has to be the most important weekend/event of the year.  In fact, I’m not sure how or if Reno can ever shake off all the tragedies and grief it’s endured recently.  It was just about a week ago when 11 people were killed at the Reno Air Races and about two weeks before that there were 5 people randomly shot at an IHOP in Carson City.  Add to those tragedies the Amtrak crash in June where 5 people were killed and it makes you wonder.

And before you start with the comments… I want to acknowledge that the acts of a couple motorcycle clubs do NOT represent a majority of the motorcycle enthusiasts that go to Street Vibrations every year.  I get it.

The frustration is that the incident murder (let’s call it what it was!) is another confirmation for an uninformed public that results in a “guilt by association” and one more piece of my freedom is likely to be taken away…

We need to teach the children to be something more!  My sincere condolences to Mr. Pettigrew’s family.

Reference: The Nugget shooting case number is 11-8996.

UPDATE: September 28, 2012 — Vagos MC attorney, Joe Yanny states in a phone interview that no Vagos member fired a gun.  He goes on to state that the “social club” has a zero tolerance policy of criminal activity.  Listen to the interview HERE and how the club is apologetic for the negative consequences.

UPDATE: October 7, 2011 — According to this report, or this video report, Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, 53, of San Jose, CA., was taken into custody last week by police in San Fransisco. He was on the University of California SF campus.  Gonzalez was being held in San Fransisco until police from Sparks, Nevada, arrive on the scene to question him.  Police believe that Gonzalez, who is an allegedly a member of the Vagos gang, shot Pettigrew four times in the back. The evidence against Gonzalez came from surveillance photos taken of Gonzalez inside the casino, which matched photos the California Highway Patrol took of Reno-bound motorcycle gang members in the hours leading up to the casino shooting.

UPDATE: June 4, 2014 – As part of a plea deal to testify against fellow Vagos, Nevada Judge Connie Steinheimer sentenced Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick to seven years in prison on August 21, 2013.   Rudnick testified that the murder was ordered by Vagos Motorcycle Club President Pastor “Tata” Palafox in front of 200 witnesses and Gonzalez volunteered to murder Pettigrew at that meeting.  Vago Ernesto Manuel “Romeo” Gonzalez was reportedly the ex-president of Vagos Nicaragua, and was sentenced to life in prison on October 3, 2013 with the possibility of parole after 20-years.

Photos taken by author and courtesy of RGJ.com

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Harrah's - Laughlin, Nevada

It was like any typical early morning in the Nevada desert with gamblers enjoying the casino and all its entertainment glory.

Then gunshots broke out and a gang melee ensued. Bystanders started running, dodging around and falling to the floor, fearing for their life – cameras caught the activity as some pulled weapons to shoot, others getting shot, or stabbed and in some instances bystanders watched as wrenches were used to beat down individuals.  It was a terrifying ordeal as many feared for their life.

I’m talking about the Saturday, April 27, 2002, Laughlin River Run brawl with guns, knives and wrenches which left three motorcycle club members dead — two Hells Angels and one Mongol — and injured at least 12 others at Harrah’s Laughlin. I first blogged about this HERE with updates HERE and HERE.

The skirmish between Hells Angels and the competing Mongol biker club fuse was lit when Metro broke up a fight between the Hells Angels and Mongols at a T-shirt stand earlier in the day.  Metro police and club leaders initiated a meeting to defuse tensions between the groups, but the members walked out of the meeting. Three hours later members of the Mongols HAMC stormed Harrah’s, where the Hells Angels Mongols were staying, and the casino floor erupted.

More than 8-years later with five federal lawsuits and at least one California state lawsuit against Harrah’s Laughlin who argued (and won) in legal motions that the casino wasn’t liable for the criminal acts of the bikers… for the first time this week were found liable in the incident.  In addition, rather than wait for a jury to determine damages Harrah’s quickly reach a settlement and one of the terms of the negotiated settlement is that the amount would be kept confidential.

The seven clients seeking damages from Harrah’s Laughlin for injuries suffered during the motorcycle club battle are: Michael Bower, Robert Garcia, Noi Lewis, Kathy Fuller, Steven Fuller, Andrea Daniels and Dean Daniels.

I’m speculating here, but it’s a pretty safe bet that fear of motorcycle clubs will pay well for these seven individuals.

What about the motorcycle club members and their legal disposition, you ask?  You may recall that forty-two members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) were indicted on federal racketeering and firearms charges.  Charges against 36 Hells Angels were dismissed in 2006.  The Las Vegas Review Journal reported Frederick Donahue (34) was a fugitive for five years before surrendering in Las Vegas in July 2008.  He was the seventh Hells Angels member sentenced in the fatal Harrah’s casino shootout and is serving 30 months in federal prison.  Jorrg Maykopf of Germany remains the only fugitive in this case.

I can remember back in 2001 staying at the Pink Flamingo (now Aquarius) during the Laughlin River Run watching HAMC prospects do bagger wheelie’s in the valet parking area.  Not these days.  The Laughlin River Run has forever changed…

Photo courtesy of Harrah’s Laughlin

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About a week ago in Josephine county it was time for the 7th annual Grants Pass Toy Run.

In case you are unfamiliar with toy runs, they are about bikers of all persuasion getting together to help disadvantage children during a bad time in their life.  Or another way to say it is these are children who would have a minimal or no Christmas had it not been for the direct effort of a toy run event.  Most if not all of the toy runs are supported by ABATE members and ABATE of Oregon exists to promote the rights and interests of all motorcyclists, both patch holders and independents alike.

But, there is an unfortunate pattern developing in law enforcement in some parts of the country which was visible in Grants Pass, Oregon on October 3rd.

Officials stated that police and fire personnel would not to take part in a charity “toy run” because members of the Vagos MC were in attendance.  Specifically Deputy Chief Bill Landis told the Daily Courier that the city considers the Vagos MC to be a criminal organization and took what amounts to a “there goes the neighborhood a’tude.”

Motorcycle clubs are often prominent at charity events, such as toy runs.  The non-motorcycle riding public might conclude from the city’s police and fire personnel actions that any motorcyclist attending a toy run is possibly affiliated with a criminal enterprise.  It’s true that the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has weighed in on the topic complaining of the bad publicity for motorcycling in general caused by so-called “outlaw” clubs.  They’ve previously stated that the presence of these clubs at charity events has actually harmed the needy by driving down public participation and reducing donations. The shootout’s between rival motorcycle clubs in the midst of a charity toy drive have not helped.  In fact, they have influenced authorities in some states to attempt a ban on certain clubs from charity events, or to restrict the wearing of colors at those events.  This in turn prompted litigation in Pennsylvania on the unfair exclusions.

Before you get the wrong idea… does giving presents to boys and girls make up for bad things that some of the motorcycle club members do?  No.  But, neither should we consider ALL cops bad because some of them instead of catching criminals ARE criminals?

I’ve participated in a number of toy runs and find this maneuvering and attempt to cast a guilt by association on what otherwise would be acts of kindness for kids very disappointing.

Previous posts about the Vagos MC in Grants Pass are HERE and “Operation Everywhere” HERE.

Photo courtesy of ABATE.

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If that’s not some irony…

I logged on to the blog dashboard this morning to approve comments and noticed several hundred views of an article I posted back in 2008 on the California-based Vagos Motorcycle Club.  As I made my way to the Google reader I learned that some 30+ members of the Vagos, also known as the “Green Nation” were arrested Saint Patrick’s Day in a multistate police raid.

The Vagos, formed in the late 1960s and have been the subject of numerous investigations. Back in 2006, at least 25 Vagos members were arrested for various weapons and drug violations after a three-year investigation that the Orange County Register called one of the “largest coordinated law enforcement probes ever conducted in the region.”

The “raids” on Wednesday were collectively called “Operation Everywhere” and comprised “sixty local and federal police agencies” serving warrants in four states: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California and involved some 400 police officers. As many as 70 locations were hit in Southern California, where police seized weapons and drugs and discovered a methamphetamine lab. The California Attorney General, Jerry Brown held a press conference releasing very few additional details on the scope of the investigation or what law enforcement plans are to eliminate the “threat” posed by the Vagos.  It’s been previously reported that the Vagos chapter in Bullhead City, Arizona has been closely scrutinized by officers of the Arizona Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission since June 2009.

Some of the news reports suggest that the arrests have a connection to the discovery of at least four booby-traps targeting Southern California gang task force officers. The cash-strapped state and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people who set the traps, which included an attempt to blow up the gang officers’ headquarters.

Like so many of these motorcycle club arrests they have a tendency to fall apart for the district attorney who is committed to pursuing justice.  I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the Riverside County DA (Rod Pacheco) stepped on an ongoing ATF investigation or would I be shocked to learn that Mr. Pacheco (who has gubernatorial aspirations) made a splashy arrest for the TV cameras.  Don’t get me wrong, the Vagos aren’t immune from having criminal issues, but it does make a person wonder what’s going on.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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Book of Eli

If the first installment of Son’s of Anarchy” (SOA), Kurt Sutter’s unique take on a motorcycle gangs modern life, served as a refreshing kick during a woeful aftermath of the financial crisis, then the 2nd installment served as a protest on assault weapon prices and the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots.

Even when viewed as mindless diversion, it’s difficult to imagine how the 3rd installment will provide bolder and grittier action for the discordant “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” crowd.

Television sequels find it difficult to live up to the glory of the previous season, especially when the original was a hit.  And according to Kurt Sutter, season 3 will deal with SOA roots and “a world that is outside their own.”  Speaking of another world, I came up with some ideas for Sutter’s “anarchists.” In a word Kurt – APOCALYPSE!

Is there anything better than an apocalypse? No food, marauding motorcycle gangs out to kill you, survival skills, a horrible lack of soap – none of its good.  Season 3 could be all about how SAMCRO survives in an apocalyptic world?  The below film examples might provide Mr. Sutter story ideas for SOA season 3:

  • Introduce a dangerous loner – (The Book of Eli, 2010) – SOA could introduce a “Hatchet” Harry character like Denzel Washington who plays Eli, a dangerous loner who protects the only book that could save humankind or the SOA club. For some reason, there are a lot of people out to stop him, so Eli has to depend some handy kung-fu skills with a mini-sword to survive.  SOA would need martial-arts training to combat the loner and stay alive in a post-apocalyptic world.
  • Don’t trust the military (28 Days Later, 2003) – In a country overrun by zombies, it’s completely understandable that SOA would run to “church” – the first safe haven within hundreds of miles. But when that fortress is overrun by dozens of all- male military officers who haven’t seen women in weeks, their intentions toward female companions of the club are probably less than noble.
  • Conserve water (Tank Girl, 1995) – The year 2033 is basically a paradise for quirky middle-schoolers; But, drinking water is, well, harder to track down than Tiger Woods. So, don’t be surprised if the world’s most powerful corporation tries to kill everyone the club knows so they can control the water wells.
  • Kidnap an orphan (Waterworld, 1995) – This post-apocalyptic future is literally a water world, so change the location of the club and the survival basics are self-evident. Some kind of flotation device will be needed. Motorcycles are exchanged for Jet-skis. And if you can manage to collect enough old milk jugs, tie them together and form the floating Sons of Anarchic city state on the open water.  Of course they would rely on filtered pee for drinking water in the endless search for an orphan with a map to the Promised Land tattooed on her back.
  • Have a good, old-fashioned book-burning at the library (The Day After Tomorrow, 2004) – Sure, the effects of global warming occur over many years. But on FX what if global warming was impatient and decided to screw over SOA in just one week? Well, for one, Charming, California would get wicked cold – so cold that arctic wolves would roam the streets for food. Fortunately, the solution can be found at the local club house: members barricade inside.  Eat chips from the vending machine and start burning every book in sight. Who needs knowledge when the temperature is plummeting?
  • Invent time travel (12 Monkeys, 1995) – Wouldn’t it be swell if SOA could go back in time and do things differently for the good of the club? You know, so that Charming wouldn’t have been plagued by the white supremacy “virus” that forced the SAMCRO survivors to form a new society, deep under the Earth’s crust? Good thing someone invented time travel! That way, SOA can send club members back in time to try and collect information about the “virus” so that the future-people can make a cure. Time machines don’t do much about, say, the fact that the club is pretty well damned to live in the dark with a bunch of creepy scientists for company, but whatever.
  • Run! Run for your life! (Children of Men, 2006)- When every woman in Charming stops getting pregnant, civilization is bound to get a little nutty. So, imagine how SOA would react if they were in charge of protecting the sole pregnant woman on the entire planet. A friendly baby shower is out of the question and it’s best to lace up your boots and do plenty of cardio, because SAMCRO has a lot of terrorists and religious zealots to outrun.
  • Outwit, outplay, outlast (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, 1981) – You might think this IS the slogan for SOA. But when SAMCRO is trapped in the only remaining oil refinery and surrounded by a murderous gang of cagers that want your gasoline, the motto “outwit, outplay, outlast” may be what saves the club. First, try a decoy: While the bad dudes think the gas is in one place, take the real stuff somewhere else. Then get a loner with impressive kung-fu and driving skills to take out every last one of the psychopaths, while the club rides off into the unknown. You may not know where you’re going, but at least you’re going somewhere in the wind!
  • Be a good dad (The Road, 2009) – The apocalypse is no excuse to abandon parenting skills. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to teach the outlaw children about peer pressure: Just because every other human on Earth has turned to murder and cannibalism to survive is no reason to adopt those habits for the club children, right? The SAMCRO offspring will not only learn valuable survival skills, but their self-esteem will be through the roof.

There you have it.  A few potential plot ideas for season 3.  I left off the possible extended two-hour episode of club hostages incorporating the Stockholm Syndrome into the tyrannical ways of the club.

Thank me later Kurt.

Photo courtesy of Comic Con and Tommy Lee Edwards.

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2009 Shriners Children Hospital Toy RunThis past Saturday was Portland’s annual Shriners Children Hospital Toy Run.

The major organizer and motorcycle advocacy group for the event is ABATE and this year marks 30 years.

The weather was dry, but it was cold.  In fact, the temp gauge registered a new low (28 degrees) on the motorcycle.  As I left the neighborhood I noticed leaving tire tracks on the frost covered asphalt.   I met up with the posse for breakfast and the main roads had already received a quick spray of glycol-based de-icers on the overpasses and bridges.  By the time we finished breakfast and drove toward the Tri-Met parking lot the frost had mostly evaporated.

This year’s turnout was nearly as large as last which brought out more than 6,000 riders.   But, more importantly it’s a lot of toys collected for sick kids.  The Toy Run brings together Harleys, Hondas, clubbers, and even the occasional Vespa.  The ABATE members held a motorcycle raffle to help raise money for the hospital and shortly after noon the police escorted riders followed a Tri-Met bus full of toys to the Shriners Hospital.

It was a great toy run and I want to provide a major shout out to the organizers and sponsors:  ABATE; Tri-Met; Paradise H-D; Latus H-D; Columbia H-D; Thunder Mountain MC Rescue; Star Rentals; Megan James Band; H.O.G.; Schulz Clearwater.

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The title is reference to the U2 song, but it’s fitting for the ABATE/Shriners Toy Run which is this Saturday, December 5, 2009.

Rider participation reached new highs last year with more than 6400 motorcycles participating in the toy run and bringing generous levels of donations for needy kids.

The weather looks like it will be most cooperative and I look forward to seeing you on the ride.  More information is available on the ABATE web HERE.

Photo courtesy of ABATE.

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