“I sure as sh*t seen everything now.” – Bartender
I didn’t start with that quote just because it’s funny….I stuck it in because I can relate. When it comes to motorcycle “clubs” there is a part of me that admires the so called “outlaw biker”. They turned riding in the wind into something to live for. They made the motorcycle the cornerstone of their identity and it’s the metaphor for their personal freedom. Hollywood romanticizes this image. In fact, many outlaw bikers envision themselves as social rebels who promote personal freedoms, by exercising their right to choose and their freedom to associate.
I figured I’ve seen pretty much everything in all my years on this earth, but I was caught off guard by the number of comments from people who expressed outrage here and on many other motorcycle “boards” about the topic of large 1%er “clubs” trying to dominate thru intimidation and impose their will on other clubs. I didn’t even write the article, but the comments had a life of their own! Sometimes clubs are forced into, or willingly accept, “support” roles for a 1%er club. Smaller clubs who resist a large 1%er club have “voluntarily” been forcibly disbanded, e.g. told to hand over their colors or risk war. In turf wars, patches feud not people, but people get hurt.
Should we care about 1%er business? Not really. The “hornet theory” (leave them alone and they will leave you alone) has served most of us motorcycle enthusiasts well. We’ve certainly read press reports that the larger 1%er MCs are rivals with each other and have fought over territory, patch rivalry and other issues…as the local CoC (Confederation of Clubs) work to eliminate most of these interclub issues. But this isn’t about 1%er rivalry. It’s about the Oregon Veterans Motorcycle Association (OVMA or cached version HERE), a legally registered non-profit organization with a membership of 600 and 12 chapters state-wide, who have been ordered to close its doors by October 24th by a 1%er “club” in Oregon.
I do care about my personal rights. I’m talking about the constitution and the right of free assembly, the right to privacy, the right of free association and the right to defend ourselves against oppressors, both foreign and domestic. These are the very rights that I connected to those social rebels, the so called outlaw biker who has been vocal in evangelizing those freedoms for all. But isn’t this hypocrisy?
The issue of “clubs” preying on each other which then spills over to preying on all of us…means you and I in the biker community loose. I grew up in a time when everyday life was simple…you worked, obeyed the law, cared for your family, looked out for your neighbors and respected your country. At least that was the creed of the working class, which does most of the of the country’s heavy lifting. How is this any different than the “Crips” or “El Norte” street gang doing their best to instill fear in local area residents? If certain groups among us are successful of shutting down a legal non-profit veterans organization then who is the next target from the mainstream motorcycle clubs or riding associations? Is it the Harley Owners Group, Honda Riders Club of America or the BMW Riders Association? Or maybe it’s the Patriot Guard Riders, who provide funeral escorts for military veterans?
A larger issue is the very real dangers regarding laws and legislation that is not specific and general in nature with regard to “clubs” or gangs and how those clubs are defined. When laws and legislation are not specific or is left to individuals or even the court’s interpretation and discretion… we should have cause for concern. It’s very likely that some opportunistic politician will leverage this situation, evangelize how Biker gangs are out of control in Oregon and use it to introduce a bill in Salem that will limit motorcycle association rights. They are probably scheduling a press briefing right now to tell us how its “good for the motorcycle economy”!
Don’t believe it’s possible? Then check out how Myrtle Beach decided to eliminate motorcycle rallies! Where is the line on a rally vs. an event in the legal system? Well the attorney’s will get wealthy because the litigation is starting and it’s the first of motorcycle association rights that effect you.
So, in the interest to educate the motorcycle enthusiasts of the northwest mark your calendar on October 25th. It’s called “Free The Colors”, a grassroots initiative in Oregon inspired by “Pappy” and I’m helping to bring visibility. See more information HERE. On that day every rider regardless of club affiliation should openly and peacefully support the OVMA’s courageous stand against intimidation.
Let’s exercise our right to peaceful assembly, to choose and defend our personal freedom of association with the OVMA while honoring our veterans. I’m just one person advocating for a just society. Now excuse me while I go rent a Mary Poppins video and buy a popsicle for little Billy (before he gets hooked on meth)…
UPDATE: October 19, 2008 – Ride details available HERE for Free The Colors Day.
UPDATE: September 27, 2008 – The ride results are HERE.
OVMA photo courtsey of web site. Legal books courtsey of VBI.
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