Although most motorcycle clubs are law-abiding groups, there is a small percentage of outlaw motorcycle gangs (often called the “one percent-ers”) who engage in illegal activity such as weapons and drug dealing. There are several major players in this scene, including the Hell’s Angels, the Sons of Silence, the Mongols and the Pagans. These gangs all have sordid histories, with long records of violence, intimidation and property damage. They view law enforcement as their sworn enemy and often have no qualms about brutally murdering a police officer.
Many of the outlaw motorcycle gangs active today were founded in the 1960s and 1970s. Bruce Richardson founded the Sons of Silence in 1968 after being discharged from the military. Based in Colorado Springs, the Sons of Silence are sometimes called the “Sons of Violence” due to their brutality. The Hell’s Angels first arrived in Canada in the 1970s. At first, the violence was mainly contained within the gangs, but in the early 1990s, innocent bystanders were murdered, sparking outrage and new efforts by the police to shut down these gangs.
Membership in one of these gangs is a closely regulated process – it can be very difficult to be accepted as part of the gangs. Many outlaw motorcycle gangs, including the Mongols, have applications – the Mongols’ application is actually three pages long! In order to join the gang, you must serve an apprenticeship first, in order to prove yourself worthy of being a member. Once you have passed the apprenticeship, then you will become a full-fledged brother. Other outlaw gangs such as the Hell’s Angels have heavily criticized the Mongols as not being a “true” motorcycle gang because in the late 1990s, the Mongols began letting people who weren’t even bikers into their gang. The Mongols, faced with declining membership decided that they had to loosen their standards if they wanted their gang to survive and remain a major player in the one percenter world.
Violent wars between the gangs are extremely common. The Mongols had a 15 year war with the Hell’s Angels; the war started over the Mongols adding the word “California” to their patch. During those fifteen years 24 bikers were killed. Sometimes chapters within one of the gangs will turn on each other. For instance, in the early 1980s, there were two chapters of the Hell’s Angels headquartered in Montreal. One of these chapters – the North Chapter – was more of a wild partying group whereas the other chapter was not. In Lennoxville, the other chapter massacred five members of the North Chapter. One member of the North Chapter survived and was able to identify the killers. About half of the Hell’s Angels in Quebec (not including the North Chapter) served jail time for this massacre, with four members serving time for first-degree murder.
Taking down these outlaw gangs has proven to be extremely challenging. The gangs all have strict codes of silence – it is extremely difficult to induce a gang member to testify against his brothers. Many of the gangs are so secretive that the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) must send in its own undercover agents. Billy Queen was an undercover agent for the ATF; in the 1990s, he was able to successfully infiltrate the Mongols. Some gangs, such as the Pagans, don’t have a headquarters and also don’t wear patches representing their home states, in an effort to further insulate themselves from law enforcement.
These outlaw motorcycle gangs have survived for the most part, despite the various prosecutions. Members of law enforcement continue to try to find a solution that will shut these criminal gangs down for good.
History Channel series “Outlaw Bikers” (aired originally in 2008)
Lennoxville massacre: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lennoxville_massacre