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Some motorcycle gangs engage in criminal activity. Besides their connection with motorcycles and the one percenter subculture, criminal motorcycle gangs are "unique among crime groups in that they maintain websites; identify themselves through patches and tattoos; have written constitutions and bylaws; trademark their club names and logos; and have publicity campaigns aimed at cleaning up their public image." ATF agent William Queen, who infiltrated the Mongols, wrote that what makes a gang like them different from the Mafia is that crime and violence are not used as expedients in pursuit of profit, but that the priorities are reversed. Mayhem and lawlessness are inherent in living "The Life," and the money they obtain by illegal means is only wanted as a way to perpetuate that lifestyle.
There are non-outlaw groups, like the Harley Owners Group, that adopt similar insignia, colors, organizational structure, and trappings like beards and leather outfits which are typical of outlaw gangs, making it difficult for outsiders to tell the difference. It has been said that these groups are attracted by the mystique of the outlaw image despite objecting to the suggestion that they are outlaws.
# Organization and leadership Localized groups of a single, large MC are called chapters or charters, and the first chapter established for an MC is referred to as the mother chapter. The president of the mother chapter serves as the president of the entire MC, and sets club policy on a variety of issues.
Larger motorcycle clubs often acquire real estate for use as a clubhouse or private compound.
# MembershipIn some "biker" clubs, as part of becoming a full member, an individual must pass a vote of the membership and swear some level of allegiance to the club. Some clubs have a unique club patch (or patches) adorned with the term MC that are worn on the rider's vest, known as colors.
In these clubs, some amount of hazing may occur during the prospecting period, ranging from the mandatory performance of menial labor tasks for full patch members to sophomoric pranks, and, in the case of outlaw motorcycle gangs, acts of violence. During this time, the prospect may wear the club name on the back of their vest, but not the full logo, though this practice may vary from club to club. To become a full member, the prospect or probate must be voted on by the rest of the full club members. Successful admission usually requires more than a simple majority, and some clubs may reject a prospect or a probate for a single dissenting vote. A formal induction follows, in which the new member affirms his loyalty to the club and its members. The final logo patch is then awarded. Full members are often referred to as "full patch members" or "patchholders" and the step of attaining full membership can be referred to as "being patched."
# Biker culture
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# Charity eventsOutlaw clubs are often prominent at charity events, such as toy runs. Charitable giving is frequently cited as evidence that these clubs do not deserve their negative media image. Outlaw gangs have, however, been accused of using charity rides to mask their criminal nature. The American Motorcyclist Association has frequently complained of the bad publicity for motorcycling in general caused by outlaw clubs, and they have said that the presence of outlaw clubs at charity events has actually harmed the needy by driving down public participation and reducing donations. Events such as a 2005 shootout between rival outlaw gangs in the midst of a charity toy drive in California have raised fears around the participation of biker gangs in charity events. Authorities have attempted to ban outlaw gangs from charity events, or to restrict the wearing of colors at events in order to avert the sort of inter-gang violence that has happened at previous charity runs. In 2002 the Warlocks MC of Pennsylvania sued over their exclusion from a charity event.
# ColorsHarley Owners Group also wear patches on the back of their vests, with or without including the letters MC.
The club patches always remain property of the club itself, not the member, and only members are allowed to wear the club's patches. Hang-arounds and/or support clubs wear support patches with the club's colors. A member must closely guard their colors, for allowing one's colors to fall into the hands of an outsider is an act of disgrace and may result in loss of membership in a club, or some other punishment.
# One-, two-, and three-piece patches
Law enforcement agencies have confiscated colors and other club paraphernalia of these types of clubs when they raid a clubhouse or the home of an MC member, and they often display these items at press conferences. These items are then used at trial to support prosecution assertions that MC members perform criminal acts on behalf of their club. Courts have found that the probative value of such items is far outweighed by their prejudicial effects on the defense.
# One percenterAmerican Motorcyclist Association (AMA) in which they stated that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, implying that the last one percent were outlaws. The comment, supposedly a response to the Hollister riot in 1947, is denied by the AMA—who claim to have no record of such a statement to the press, and that the story is a misquotation. As a result, some outlaw motorcycle clubs used it to unite or express themselves and are commonly referred to as "one percenters". According to the ATF they are also known as Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs or OMGs.
# Other patchesOther patches may be worn by members, including phrases and symbols. The style or meaning of these other patches can vary between clubs. Some, such as a skull and crossbones patch, or the motto "Respect Few, Fear None", are worn in some clubs by members who commit murder or other acts of violence on behalf of the club.
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Frequently, additional patches may involve the use of Nazi symbols, such as swastikas or the SS death's head. These do not necessarily indicate Nazi sympathies, but serve to express the outlaw biker's total rejection of social constraints, and desire for the shock value among those who fail to understand the biker way.
# Gender and raceOne-percenter MCs (OMCs) do not allow women to become full-patch members. Rather, women are submissive to the men, treated as property, forced into prostitution or street-level drug trafficking, and often physically and sexually abused. Any pay women receive is given to their individual men and sometimes to the entire club. Women's roles as obedient followers, and their status as objects, make these groups extremely gender segregated. However, this has not always been the case; for example, during the 1950s, some Hells Angels chapters had women full members.
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs are typically racially homogeneous, and can be racially exclusive. which has led to creation of rival clubs such as the Bandidos and the Mongols Motorcycle Club. MC members are not usually referred to by their given names, but instead refer to each other by nicknames, or "road names", sometimes even displaying their road name on the club vest.
# Outlaw motorcycle gangsThe U.S. Department of Justice defines Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs as organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises. Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Criminal Intelligence Service Canada have designated four MCs as Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs), which are the Hells Angels, Pagans, Outlaws, and Bandidos, known as the "Big Four". These four have a large enough national impact to be prosecuted under the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute. The California Attorney General also lists the Mongols and the Vagos Motorcycle Club as outlaw motorcycle gangs. The FBI asserts that OMGs support themselves primarily through drug dealing, trafficking in stolen goods, and extortion, and that they fight over territory and the illegal drug trade. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Gazette, quoting from the Provincial Court of Manitoba, defines these groups as: "Any group of motorcycle enthusiasts who have voluntarily made a commitment to band together and abide by their organizations' rigorous rules enforced by violence, who engage in activities that bring them and their club into serious conflict with society and the law".
The FBI asserts that OMGs collect $1 billion in illegal income annually. In 1985 a three-year, eleven-state FBI operation named Roughrider culminated in the largest OMG bust in history, with the confiscation of $2 million worth of illegal drugs, as well as an illegal arsenal of weapons, ranging from Uzi submachine guns to antitank weapons. In October, 2008, the FBI announced the end of a 6-month undercover operation by agents into the narcotics trafficking by the Mongols Motorcycle Gang. The bust went down with 160 search warrants and 110 arrest warrants
Canada, especially, has in the past two decades experienced a significant upsurge in crime involving outlaw motorcycle gangs, most notably in what has been dubbed the Quebec Biker war, which has involved more than 150 murders (plus a young bystander killed by an exploding car bomb), 84 bombings, and 130 cases of arson. The increased violence in Canada has been attributed to turf wars over the illegal drug trafficking business, specifically relating to access to the Port of Montreal, but also as the Hells Angels have sought to obtain control of the street level trade from other rival and/or independent gangs in various regions of Canada.
Members and supporters of these clubs insist that illegal activities are isolated occurrences and that they, as a whole, are not criminal organizations. They often compare themselves to police departments, wherein the occasional "bad cop" does not make a police department a criminal organization and the Hells Angels sponsors charitable events for Toys for Tots in an attempt to legitimize themselves with public opinion.
Contrary to other criminal organizations, OMGs operate on an individual basis instead of top-down, which is how supporters can claim that only some members are committing crimes. Belonging guarantees to each member the option of running criminal activity, using other members as support - the main characteristic of OMGs being "amoral individualism" in contrast to the hierarchical orders and bonds of "amoral familism" of other criminal organizations such as the Mafia.
Recently, authorities have tried tactics aimed at undermining the gang identity and breaking up the membership. But in June 2011 the High Court of Australia overturned a law that outlawed motorcycle gangs and required members to avoid contact with one another. In the US, a Federal judge rejected a prosecutor's request to seize ownership of the Mongols Motorcycle Club logo and name, saying the government had no right to the trademarks. Federal prosecutors had requested, as part of a larger criminal indictment, a court order giving the government ownership of the logo in order to prevent members from wearing the gang's colors.
# Relationships among motorcycle clubsIn the United States, many MCs have established state-wide MC coalitions. These coalitions are composed of MCs who have chapters in the state, and the occasional interested third party organization. The coalition holds periodic meetings on neutral ground, wherein representatives from each club (usually the presidents and vice-presidents, but not always) meet in closed session to resolve disputes between clubs and discuss issues of common interest.
The largest one-percent club tends to dominate the coalition, using their numbers to impose their will on other clubs. Sometimes clubs are forced into, or willingly accept, support roles for a one-percent club. Smaller clubs who resist a large one-percent club have been forcibly disbanded by being told to hand over their colors or risk war. With the exception of Law Enforcement Clubs, smaller clubs usually comply, since members of a family club are usually unwilling to risk injury or worse. Law Enforcement Clubs are not a territorial threat to 1% Outlaw Clubs and customarily do not instigate confrontations, avoiding unnecessary attention upon the 1% Clubs. Another tactic used by one-percent clubs is to force smaller clubs to join the AMA and wear an AMA patch. This is considered an act of shame by some clubs, and a club thus forced may wear an upside-down AMA patch on their colors as a form of protest and to retain their dignity.
Certain large one-percent MCs are rivals with each other and will fight over territory and other issues. In 2002, members of the Mongols MC and the Hells Angels MC had a confrontation in Laughlin, Nevada at the Harrah's Laughlin Casino that left three bikers dead. Another melee, this time between the Hells Angels and the Pagans MC, occurred in February, 2002 at a Hells Angels convention in Long Island, New York. Police reports indicate the Pagans were outraged that the event was held on what they considered their "home turf".
The local COC (Coalition of Clubs) has eliminated most of the inter-club rivalry. Modern day club members tend to be older veterans, and given the cost of ownership of a Harley Davidson type motorcycle, increasingly well-to-do.
National 1% clubs tend to be territorial. Smaller clubs are allowed to form with the permission of the dominant regional club. Smaller clubs will sometimes be required to wear a support patch on their vests that shows their support for the dominant regional. Certain clubs are exempt from this requirement, such as the police clubs ("Iron Pigs") as well as the national military/veteran only clubs like the US Military Vets MC.
# Cultural influence
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