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Hells Angels

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Hells Angels

Hells Angels MC
Motto

"Angels Forever, Forever Angels" (traditional)[1]

"When we do right, nobody remembers. When we do wrong, nobody forgets." (unspecific, one-percenter saying) [2]
Founded March 17, 1948[3]
Leader title National President
Key people Sonny Barger
Type Outlaw motorcycle club
Region Worldwide (425 charters in 50 countries)[4]
Website .com.hells-angelswww
Abbreviation HA, 81, HAMC

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) is a worldwide U.S. Department of Justice.[5][6][7][8] In the United States and Canada, the Hells Angels are incorporated as the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation. Common nicknames for the club are the "H.A.", "Red & White", and "81".[9]

History

This B-17F, tail number 41-24577, was named Hell's Angels after the 1930 Howard Hughes movie about World War I fighter pilots.[10][11]

The Hells Angels were started on March 17, 1948, by the Bishop family, American war immigrants in Fontana, California[12] followed by an amalgamation of former members from different motorcycle clubs, such as the Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington.[13][14] The Hells Angels' website[15] denies the suggestion that any misfit or malcontent troops are connected with the motorcycle club. The website also notes that the name was suggested by Arvid Olsen, an associate of the founders, who had served in the Flying Tigers' "Hell's Angels" squadron in China during World War II.[16] The name "Hell's Angels" was inspired by the typical naming of American squadrons, or other fighting groups, with a fierce, death-defying title in World Wars I and II, e.g., the Flying Tigers (American Volunteer Group) in Burma and China fielded three squadrons of P-40s and the third Squadron was called "Hell's Angels".[17] In 1930, the Howard Hughes film Hell's Angels displayed extraordinary and dangerous feats of aviation, and it is believed that the World War II groups who used that name based it on the film.

Some of the early history of the HAMC is not clear, and accounts differ. According to Ralph 'Sonny' Barger, founder of the Oakland chapter, early chapters of the club were founded in San Francisco, California, Gardena, Fontana, California, Oakland, California et al., with the members usually being unaware that there were other clubs. One of lesser known clubs existed in North Chino/South Pomona, California, in the late 1960s.

Other sources claim that the Hells Angels in San Francisco were organized in 1953 by

The Hells Angels are often depicted in semi-mythical romantic fashion like the 19th-century James-Younger Gang: free-spirited, iconic, bound by brotherhood and loyalty. At other times, such as in the 1966 Roger Corman film The Wild Angels, they are depicted as violent and nihilistic, little more than a violent criminal gang and a scourge on society.[19]

The club became prominent within, and established its notoriety as part of, the 1960s counterculture movement in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury scene, playing a part at many of the movement's seminal events. Members were directly connected to many of the counterculture's primary leaders, such as Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, Allen Ginsberg, Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead, Timothy Leary, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Mick Farren and Tom Wolfe. The club launched the career of "Gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson.[20][21][22][23]

Criminologist Karen Katz said in 2011 that the Hells Angels were the center of a moral panic in Canada involving the media, politicians, law enforcement, and the public that sensationalized the importance of isolated criminal acts.[24]

Criminal activities and incidents

Numerous police and international intelligence agencies classify the Hells Angels as one of the "big four" [27][28] Members of the club have been accused of crimes and/or convicted in many host nations.

Insignia

Insignia of the Hells Angels from Karlsruhe chapter, with the '1%' patch

The Hells Angels' official website attributes the official "death's head" insignia design to Frank Sadilek, past president of the San Francisco chapter.[29] The colors and shape of the early-style jacket emblem (prior to 1953) were copied from the insignias of the 85th Fighter Squadron and the 552nd Medium Bomber Squadron.[29]

The Hells Angels utilize a system of patches similar to military medals. Although the specific meaning of each patch is not publicly known, the patches identify specific or significant actions or beliefs of each biker.[30] The official colors of the Hells Angels are red lettering displayed on a white background—hence the club's nickname "The Red and White". These patches are worn on leather or denim jackets and vests.

Red and white are also used to display the number 81 on many patches, as in "Support 81, Route 81". The 8 and 1 stand for the respective positions in the alphabet of H and A. These are used by friends and supporters of the club in deference to club rules which purport to restrict the wearing of Hells Angels imagery to club members.

The diamond-shaped one-percenter patch is also used, displaying '1%' in red on a white background with a red merrowed border. The term one-percenter is said to be a response to the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) comment on the Hollister incident, to the effect that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens and the last 1% were outlaws. The AMA has no record of such a statement to the press, and calls this story apocryphal.[31]

New York Hells Angels patch.

Most members wear a rectangular patch (again, white background with red letters and a red merrowed border) identifying their respective chapter locations. Another similarly designed patch reads "Hells Angels". When applicable, members of the club wear a patch denoting their position or rank within the organization. The patch is rectangular and, similar to the patches described above, displays a white background with red letters and a red merrowed border. Some examples of the titles used are President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Sergeant at Arms. This patch is usually worn above the 'club location' patch. Some members also wear a patch with the initials "AFFA", which stands for "Angels Forever; Forever Angels", referring to their lifelong membership in the biker club (i.e., "once a member, always a member").

The book Gangs, written by Tony Thompson (a crime correspondent for The Observer), states that Stephen Cunningham, a member of the Angels, sported a new patch after he recovered from attempting to set a bomb, consisting of two Nazi-style SS lightning bolts below the words 'Filthy Few'. Some law enforcement officials claim that the patch is only awarded to those who have committed, or are prepared to commit murder on behalf of the club. According to a report from the R. v. Bonner and Lindsay case in 2005 (see related section below), another patch, similar to the 'Filthy Few' patch is the 'Dequiallo' patch. This patch "signifies that the wearer has fought law enforcement on arrest."[32] There is no common convention as to where the patches are located on the members' jacket/vest.

Intellectual property rights

In March 2007 the Hells Angels filed suit against the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group alleging that the film entitled Wild Hogs used both the name and distinctive logo of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation without permission.[33] The suit was eventually voluntarily dismissed,[34] after it received assurances from Disney that its references would not appear in the film.[35]

In October 2010 the Hells Angels filed a lawsuit against Alexander McQueen for "misusing its trademark winged death heads symbol"[36] in several items from its Autumn/Winter 2010 collection. The lawsuit is also aimed at Saks Fifth Avenue and Zappos.com, which stock the jacquard box dress and knuckle duster ring which bear the symbol which has been used since at least 1948 and is protected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.[37] A handbag and scarf was also named in lawsuit.[38] The lawyer representing Hells Angels claimed "This isn't just about money, it's about membership. If you've got one of these rings on, a member might get really upset that you're an impostor."[39] Saks refused to comment, Zappos had no immediate comment and the company's parent company, PPR, could not be reached for comment.[40] The company settled the case with the Hells Angels after agreeing to remove all of the merchandise featuring the logo from sale on their website, stores and concessions and recalling any of the goods which have already been sold and destroying them.[41][42][43]

In fall 2012 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Hells Angels sued Toys "R" Us for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and dilution in relation to the sale of yo-yos manufactured by Yomega Corporation, a co-defendant, which allegedly bear the “Death Head” logo. In its complaint,[44] Hells Angels asserted that the mark used on the yo-yos is likely to confuse the public into mistakenly believing that the toys originate with Hells Angels and Yomega filed counterclaims against Hells Angels for cancellation of the “Death Head” registrations on grounds of alleged fraud in the procurement of the registrations.[45] The case settled and the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice.

As of December 2013, the Hells Angels sells its branded merchandise at a retail store in Toronto, Canada.[46] Over seven years, it has defended its brand and label against use in clothes, jewelry, posters, and yo-yos.[46]

Membership

Hells Angels
A club member at a biker gathering in Australia, 2008.

In order to become a Hells Angels prospect, candidates must have a valid driver's license, a motorcycle over 750cc, and have the right combination of personal qualities. It is said the club excludes child molesters and individuals who have applied to become police or prison officers.[47]

After a lengthy, phased process, a prospective member is first deemed to be a "hang-around", indicating that the individual is invited to some club events or to meet club members at known gathering places.

If the hang-around is interested, he may be asked to become an "associate", a status that usually lasts a year or two. At the end of that stage, he is reclassified as "prospect", participating in some club activities, but not having voting privileges while he is evaluated for suitability as a full member. The last phase, and highest membership status, is "Full Membership" or "Full-Patch".[48] The term "Full-Patch" refers to the complete four-piece crest, including the "Death Head" logo, two rockers (top rocker: "Hells Angels"; bottom rocker: state or territory claimed) and the rectangular "MC" patch below the wing of the Death's Head. Prospects are allowed to wear only a bottom rocker with the state or territory name along with the rectangular "MC" patch.

Hells Angels clubhouse in Oakland, California

To become a full member, the prospect must be voted on unanimously by the rest of the full club members.[49] Prior to votes being cast, a prospect usually travels to every chapter in the sponsoring chapter's geographic jurisdiction (state/province/territory) and introduces himself to every Full-Patch member. This process allows each voting member to become familiar with the subject and to ask any questions of concern prior to the vote. Some form of formal induction follows, wherein the prospect affirms his loyalty to the club and its members. The final logo patch (top "Hells Angels" rocker) is then awarded at this initiation ceremony. The step of attaining full membership can be referred to as "being patched".

Even after a member is patched-in, the patches themselves remain the property of HAMC rather than the member. On leaving the Hells Angels, or being ejected, they must be returned to the club.[50]

Worldwide chapters

The Hells Angels clubhouse at 77 East 3rd Street between First and Second Avenues in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City

The HAMC acknowledges more than one hundred chapters spread over 29 countries. The Hells Angels motorcycle club founded a chapter in Auckland, New Zealand in 1961 and has since taken over gangs in Wanganui. New Zealand had the first chapter of the Hells Angels outside the US.[51] Europe did not become widely home to the Hells Angels until 1969 when two London chapters were formed. International Times writer and lead singer with The Deviants, Mick Farren. They awarded Farren an "approval patch" in 1970 for use on his first solo album Mona, which also featured Steve Peregrin Took (who was credited as "Shagrat the Vagrant").[55]

In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a major expansion of the club into Canada. The Quebec Biker war was a violent turf war that began in 1994 and continued until late 2002 in Montreal. The war began as the Hells Angels in Quebec began to make a push to establish a monopoly on street-level drug sales in the province. A number of drug dealers and crime families resisted and established groups such as the "Alliance to fight the Angels". The war resulted in the bombings of many establishments and murders on both sides. It has claimed more than 150 lives[56] and led to the incarceration of over 100 bikers.[57]

Spanish Chapter was involved in killing and trialed.[58]

A list of acknowledged chapters can be found on the HAMC's official website.[59]

Racial policies

The club claims not to be a racially segregated organization,[60][61] although at least one chapter allegedly requires that a candidate be a white male,[62] and Sonny Barger stated in a BBC interview in 2000 that "The club, as a whole, is not racist but we probably have enough racist members that no black guy is going to get in it".[49] At that time the club had no black members.[49]

However there have been black members of puppet clubs, notably Gregory Wooley, a high-ranking member of the Rockers MC in Montreal who was the protégé[63] and bodyguard of Hells Angel boss Maurice Boucher (who had been labeled a white supremacist by the media). Wooley became an associate of the Hells Angels Montreal chapter[64] in the 1990s and later tried uniting street gangs in Quebec after Boucher was imprisoned.[65]

In another interview with leader Sonny Barger in 2000 he remarked "if you're a motorcycle rider and you're white, you want to join the Hell's Angels. If you [sic] black, you want to join the Dragons. That's how it is whether anyone likes it or not. We don't have no blacks and they don't have no whites."[66] When asked if that could change Barger replied "Anything can change, I can't predict the future".[66] Tobie Levingston who formed the black motorcycle club East Bay Dragons MC wrote in his book that he and Sonny Barger have a long-lasting friendship and that the Hells Angels and Dragons have a mutual friendship and hang out and ride together.[67]

In a 1966 article about motorcycle rebels in the African-American community magazine Ebony, the Chosen Few MC stated that they see no racial animosity in the Hells Angels and that when they come into Chosen Few territory they all get together and just party.[68] A Hells Angel member interviewed for the magazine insisted there was no racial prejudice in any of their clubs and stated "we don't have any negro members" but maintained there have not been any blacks who have sought membership.[68] At one point in the 1970s the Hells Angels were looking to consolidate the different motorcycle clubs and offered every member of the Chosen Few MC a Hells Angel badge, but the Chosen Few turned down the offer.[69]

See also

References

  1. ^ Frank Reynolds, Michael McClure (1967) Freewheelin Frank: Secretary of the Angels, Grove Press, 1967, p.73
  2. ^ Hopper, C. B., & Moore, J. (1990). Women in outlaw motorcycle gangs. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 18(4), p.385.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Bishop, Cliff T. (1986). Fortresses of the Big Triangle First, East Anglia Books. ISBN 1-869987-00-4, pp.160, 236.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ History Channel episode, Hell's Angels
  14. ^ History Documentary Hell's Angels Time Index approximately 00.05 minutes into the program
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Birney Jarvis for Male magazine, 1964. Reprinted in Hells Angels by Hunter S. Thompson
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Hell's Angels and the Illusion of the Counterculture; Wood, John. 30 Sept 2003. The Journal of Popular Culture, Volume 3
  22. ^ The Haight-Ashbury: A History; Perry, Charles. 2005
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ a b
  30. ^ Gangs; A Journey into the heart of the British Underworld, Tony Thompson, (2004) ISBN 0-340-83053-0
  31. ^
  32. ^ HAMC Overview Document, Overview of the Hell's Angel's Motorcycle Club (HAMC) In Canada
  33. ^ 'Litigation against movie release' (March 8, 2006) and they rule., HAMC vs Walt Disney
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ a b
  47. ^
  48. ^ NDIC Document, US Department of Justice Report on OMG HA
  49. ^ a b c
  50. ^ A Wayward Angel: The Full Story of the Hells Angels by George Wethern and Vincent Colnett
  51. ^ Kemp, p 50
  52. ^
  53. ^ Pg. 129, Rock Scully, David Dalton, "Living with the Dead: Twenty Years on the Bus with Garcia and the Grateful Dead", Cooper Square Publ Inc, 2001 ISBN 978-0-8154-1163-5
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^ [1]
  58. ^ http://www.abc.es/local-alicante/20140114/abci-condenados-nueve-motoristas-angeles-201401141805.html
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^ 2003 Soul on Bikes: The East Bay Dragons MC and Black Biker Set, Tobie Gene Levingston, with Keith and Kent Zimmerman (St. Paul, MN: Motorbikes International Publishing). The history of the Oakland-based African-American Motorcycle Club with a foreword from Sonny Barger.
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^ a b
  67. ^
  68. ^ a b
  69. ^

Further reading

External links

  • Official website – listing many chartered local chapters, with links
  • Hells Angels at DMOZ
  • FBI file on Hell's Angels
  • Never-Seen: Hells Angels, 1965 – slideshow by Life magazine
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