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Posts Tagged ‘Organizations’

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.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
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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.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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no_colorsSomewhere in a windowless, cinder block room in the basement of an institutional building in Olympia, Washington police officers are passing on secrets.  Meanwhile the folks on the 2nd floor might look at introducing strict anti-biker legislation which would allow organizations to be banned and people prevented from associating.  And in the Capital parking lot the WSP decides this is the “right time” to send a message to motorcyclist and started photographing everyone who arrived including clubs, motorcycles and license plates.

In my youth I would have been overly alarmed, but there is more to aging than just gray hair.  Wistful yearning for something past or nostalgia as it is known, is also part of the aging process.  I should have been a cowboy.  At least they have remained true to their lifestyle.  Cowboys are still respected and no attempt has been made to take their freedoms away.  They can wear a cowboy hat, a bandanna or whatever they choose and have never been made part of gang legislation.  Their ride, the horse, has not suffered the embarrassment of their counterpart, the motorcycle. It still has four legs and the mechanisms for riding has remained the same for a lot of years.  No attempt has been made to legislate an air bag, legislate noise, legislate riding attire or have it talk to you!  A cowboy has not been banned from a bar because boots and a PBR buckle were deemed clothing symbols representing a banned “group.”  Cowboys have no profiling concerns, no harassment or false pre-text stops like many motorcycle enthusiasts.

You see we’re slowly allowing the government and law enforcement agencies to take away our rights and dictate to all motorcycle enthusiasts what we can and can’t wear and who we can associate with.  Today it’s biker clubs then tomorrow they will target the Lions Club or whoever else they “feel” like making out to be a bad organization.

cowboy_coffeeDo you think I’m off base or headed in the wrong direction?  Then consider this.  People make decisions that carry extremely different levels of healthcare risk. For example, fatalities on motorcycles are far more likely than in cars (35 deaths/million miles vs. 1.7 deaths/million miles) (1). Motorcyclists are also four times as likely to be seriously injured (2).  Many legislators don’t thing car drivers should subsidize the costs for the increased risks taken by motorcyclists.  But when you really look at this situation it’s employers who purchase health insurance so they can decide what to cover. And guess what?  Companies have exclusions for items that the executives considered unwise: no coverage for treatments resulting from motorcycle accidents, sky-diving etc., (3).

In short, “Black Thursday” was represented by over 100 riders with the same goal.  There were independent motorcycle enthusiasts, Veteran clubs as well as 1%ers all focused on exercising their constitutional rights as citizens to actively lobby representatives who control the destiny of Washington state motorcycle riders. 

Congrats to WAC.o.C. and ABATE on a professional and well attended day in the democratic process.

References:

  1. Trends in Motorcycle Fatalities Associated with Alcohol-Impaired Driving-United States, 1983-2003. JAMA. 2005;293:287-288. MMWR. 2004;53:1103-1106
  2. U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts 2001 DOT HS 809 473
  3. U.S. Department of the Treasury, Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services. Nondiscrimination and Wellness Programs in Health Coverage in the Group Market; Final Rules. Federal Register. December 13, 2006;71(239):75013-55 

Photo courtesy American Cowboy Coffee.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Calling all motorcycle riders to the Oregon Riders internet forum.

If you’re unfamiliar with an internet forum, or message board – its a bulletin board system in the form of a discussion site.  From a technology viewpoint, forums or “boards” are web applications managing user-generated content.  They allow anonymous visitors to view the contents, but registering (an easy less than 5-minute process) allows users to submit topics for discussion (known as threads) and communicate with each other using publicly visible messages (referred to as posts) or private messaging.

In an effort to reach out to a broader set of riders across the state, Don Mason (Coordinator, Hub City ABATE Chapter) has created a new concept called the Oregon Riders forum.  He’s running this site simply for his interests in motorcycling and it’s separate from ABATE.  Thanks Don for your support and a quick shout-out to “Windy Joe” for illuminating the site.

This forum was created to do several things:

  1. To give riders in Oregon a single place to get information and share their love of riding and the bike lifestyle.
  2. To provide a place for real-time discussion and collaboration for MRO’s and other groups throughout the state.
  3. To provide a place for MRO’s and other riding groups to announce and find what is going on for riders in the Northwest.

This forum is for ALL riders and is not affiliated with, influenced by, or run by, any specific organization.

The intent is to build and hopefully have a thriving forum… a “hangout” if you will for Oregon riders who are involved, talking to each other, and getting together for rides, events and legislative issues.  There are a lot of riders in Oregon and it would be cool to see large numbers of people “virtually” gathering.

Check it out, register and join the discussion.  See you on the “boards.”

Photo courtesy Oregon Riders web site.

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KOBI News is reporting that the “GREEN NATION”, aka the Vagos Motorcycle Club is holding a west coast “meeting” in Grants Pass this weekend (August 9-10).  Their signature “colors” – shades of green and a red demon caricature of Loki, the Norse god of mischief will be “flying” in southern Oregon.

Should we care?  I’m not so sure, but given all the historical issues (dating back to 1999 and mostly bad) and the hefty fines, I find it curious the Vagos decided to hold a meeting in Josephine county again.  Sure, it’s a free country…at least the last time I checked the First Amendment was alive and well, but the bad blood and community fears of violence will surely loom over the event and may cause an overreaction from Sheriff Gil Gilbertson…similar to Sheriff Dave Daniels days.  Why risk police stops for “DWV” – driving while Vagos?

The group plans to meet at Schroeder Park, just outside of Grants Pass. Vagos MC member, Harry Hart (a Dentist in CA.) claims they are a “motorcycle family who come together and associate with one another and the police have it all wrong”…”it’s blown all out of proportion”.

I’m a bit skeptical and have written about colors flying in Oregon previously.  The Vagos MC is identified as an outlaw motorcycle gang (OMG) in the CA. Organized Crime Annual Report and the DOJ states:

The Vagos Motorcycle Club (Vagos) has hundreds of members in the U.S. and Mexico and poses a serious criminal threat to those areas in which its chapters are located. U.S. law enforcement authorities report that the Vagos have approximately 300 members among 24 chapters located in the states of California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and three chapters located in Mexico. The Vagos produce, transport and distribute methamphetamine and are also involved in the distribution of marijuana. The Vagos have also been implicated in other criminal activities including assault, extortion, insurance fraud, money laundering, murder, vehicle theft, witness intimidation and weapons violations. In the U.S., the Vagos are mainly active in the Southwest and Pacific regions.

Before I get a bunch of comments about taking too many falls without a helmet, let me just say I know one member breaking the law is one thing and to paint an entire club or over-generalize is quite another.  But I also know that OMG want to give the impression they are a just a harmless riding club.  Maybe its because so many states are doing what California is, once linked to a gang, the penalty for a crime is much more severe.

Here’s my point.  I’m not passing judgement, but hope the Vagos MC members avoid big trouble in a small town so the state can avoid an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars and focus on higher profile criminally active street gangs.

Photo courtesy of Venice Beach org.

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