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The Utility of Gang Pride

California courts have been wrangling with a case regarding the legality of police ripping the “patches” off of the jackets of a particular motorcycle “gang.”

The “gang” in question prefers to be called The Mongols Motorcycle Club and to keep matters simple I will refer to this group as The Mongols from here on out.

We will not delve into the murky legal waters that led to the “powers that be” thinking this strategy a good idea, instead we will address the issue on broader terms that may have actual impact on ourselves — gang affiliated or not.

First, let’s get the free speech and property rights arguments out of the way. For a thought experiment, let’s say that you are a Mongol member in good standing.

A law-abiding Mongol at that. Anyone denying your right to wear the emblem of your club would be seen as a villain, let alone armed officials who were allowed/instructed to remove your property (the patch) from your person.

I daresay you would see such a governmentally sanctioned stance as bellicose.

If you can’t un-mire your views on this with what you think or assume the Mongols may or may not be up to, let’s say that the same policy is in play for “MAGA” hats or “Bernie Bros” t-shirts, or whatever trademark thing you dig wearing. Picture an armed official sanctioned to remove it from your person.

Now, you got it.

Now, some still won’t get it because for some “some means all.”

By that I mean, because some Mongols are involved in illegal activity then all Mongols are involved in illegal activity.

But this is akin to saying, because some televangelists are hypocritical prevaricating adulterers who do not open their doors for charity during a Houston hurricane all are tarred with the same brush. (Perhaps, not the best example, but you follow my drift.)

I understand the knee-jerk tar all with the same brush in some cases, for example, Neo-Nazis. Now the law of averages says that amongst Neo-Nazis there has to be some law-abiding tax-paying citizens who are good family members and kind to dogs who have never burned a cross or clogged a street with a heinous display of hatred. If it weren’t for that vicious racist streak they’d be peachy people to know but our tarry brush allows me to spot this distasteful quality and choose other company.

This brings us to the utility argument.

If we remove danger signals from an entity we consider dangerous how are the civilized able to spot the dangerous?

Let’s say Tennessee is riddled with King Cobras. On my many treks through the woods I encounter snakes, primarily non-venomous snakes and I hike happily along.

Occasionally I see the displayed hood of the dreaded cobra and I quickly alter my plans. Today is now not hike day. Today is yogurt smoothie day.

In this example, the snake’s gang colors potentially saved my life.

If some well-meaning legislation is passed to ban cobra hoods, but not cobras themselves I am still left with the same number of cobras on my hikes but no longer possessing the helpful identifying marks.

If I have a dreaded fear of The Mongols and I pull into an interstate rest stop and see a conglomeration of bikers with Mongol rockers I drive on.

If the patches are illegal my rest stop no longer possesses the signal I desire. I now don’t know if the cluster of bikers I see is that which I fear or the Pomona Chapter of the Christian Riders.

Gang colors, MAGA hats, biker patches, crucifixes as adornments, team jerseys are all badges of affiliation or association. They are signals that let other human animals know what abstract notions the wearing animal affiliates with.

They allow me to know “Hey that guy wearing the Tap-Out t-shirt and carrying a volume of Jacques Barzun, he and I may have something in common, I think I’ll go talk to him.” Or, “Hey, does it strike you that everyone in this Applebee’s is wearing a Swastika? Maybe we should go to Denny’s instead.”

Animals provide signals to attract or to repel. Removing or muting the signals doesn’t do a damn thing for our safety, it may very well do quite the opposite.

(For the record, Sonny Barger an original founder of the Oakland Chapter of The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club has penned a volume titled Freedom: Credos from the Road. It’s damn fine book. A better book than most books or tweets by politicians. So, am I pro-gang or anti-gang? Pro-gov or anti-gov? All of the above.)

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54 thoughts on “The Utility of Gang Pride”

  1. Excellent thought provoking article! Made me think of a Ronald Reagan quote: “Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.”

  2. Although I’m a person who would probably be characterized as a “liberal,” I actually agree with you on this. The police have absolutely no right under the First Amendment to confiscate patches or colors. If the person wearing those items commit criminal acts they can be dealt with accordingly. That does not give the state the right to confiscate those items. I don’t know about the Mongols but I ‘d heard that Sonny Barger had legally trademarked the Hells Angels logo. If the Mongols had also done so, the state might be liable under those statutes also. In any case, it sounds like a case for the ACLU.

  3. BTW- it’s not just an issue of free speech it’s also the right of association that’s being impinged on and possibly the right to peaceful assembly.

  4. I am a long time left coast biker. Over 50 years, and I do not (by choice) belong to any bike club but have ridden countless miles with some of them. You will find more honesty, integrity, devotion, respect, and courtesy in the majority of them. Can’t personally speak for the Mongols but they have a constitutional right to their colors. This country has gone to HELL. I see little hope for upcoming generations. ☹

  5. I agree with your blog completely, I lived in the socialist state of California when I was younger and I did not belong to a motorcycle “gang” I knew some hells angels and was never bothered by them, when I moved back to Texas I knew some banditos also no problem, and by the way I was a deputy sheriff in Texas, before there was such a thing as swat teams and I never had any problems with any gang member.

  6. i wouldnt b concerned about the signals as the uprising due 2 govt interference and tyrannical control — the 2nd amendment was establish 2 prevent these govt whore mongers of doing what they think they can 2 anyone regardless if it is legal or not – power and control is all they seek and there needs 2 b bite back 2 stop it

    regarding what shawn said a another quote for reagan —beware of these 9 words — im from the govt and im here 2 help

  7. I am not a member of a mc, but have many friends that I call family that are. I have found them to be some of the kindest and most generous people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. MC’s have provided toys for children whose families could not afford them, provided benefits for families to help support them when their family members were injured or killed, and escorted our soldiers to their final resting places with honor, as well as attended funerals to the same when they had nobody to attend. These MC members are human beings just like all of us. Misunderstood? Definitely! Are there bad amongst them? Yes, just like there are good and bad in all human kind. I have found through experience that all they want is to be treated with respect as a fellow human, and the same will be returned in kind. Lose the stereotype and you may find that we all have much in common. I will always consider them friends, brothers, and family. My love and respect to all MC’s, and thank you for all that you do to help others.

  8. I agree on a couple of issues.We are a country of free speech and I wouldn’t want any sonofabitch telling me what I can display or wear, on the other hand if you hide the danger signs then whose fault is it when you walk straight into the fire. The police who do this shit are cowards and need to run into the mongols ( without that piece of tin)

  9. I must say I agree with the author on this article. Gang colors are no more or less than “notices” of who those members are and who they have CHOSEN to associate with. The fact that the California State Police have been “ordered” to remove them from those members only serves to tell me that California has CHOSEN to become even more “Socialist” than they already were. Do you have any (Honorably Discharged) combat veterans that are currently members of the Mongols MC Club?? If not, you might want to ask some of them what their thoughts are about the “State -ordered” confiscation of the “Mongols” motorcycle club patches. I will tell you MY thoughts: It is complete B.S., ordered by a yellow-bellied coward (Who never served in the military.) who is too cowardly to fight his own personal battles!! But then that is what California has become – You need look no further than Hollywood to confirm that mindset (With a FEW exceptions)!! So carry on Mongols – You have the U.S. Constitution on your side. To Hell with the whining, cowardly liberals.

    P.S. There is NO WAY these MC gang members should be compared or likened to street gang thugs whose sole mission is to do illegal activities. They are strictly PUNKS!!

  10. When I tended bar in California,we had one rule for
    bikers. All were welcomed but the colors had to remain outside. It worked very well at
    preventing fighting inside.

  11. Not a biker, always carried a negative bias in my mind toward men on powerful motorcycles. From this article I can easily see where my negatives here apply, it is clear I have justified my blanket aversion toward anyone in a black leather jacket cruising along, minding their own business because of stereotypes I have been carrying aroubd. That is exactly the same as racism and intolerance, just a different target. Thanks for the article.

  12. In these times our native groups receive more aggression than illegal groups such as Ms 13 ect. I would take my chances with my native gangs !

  13. What happens if you are wearing a hat or t-shirt bearing the name of your favorite sports team? I think the same thing could happen to you as well. We have become an overly sensitive, easily triggered society anymore.

  14. I agree, being an ex truck driver. It’s nice to know who is in the rest stop when you pulled in.
    Apposed to just seeing a bunch of people and have no idea that there a gang. Logos make the add industry easier to display the products.
    And without them people would have nothing to bitch about.

  15. There is a old saw that goes “The majority is always wrong!” It must be so because Hellery got more votes than POTUS Trump. Back in the Good Old Days, we were taught in school to thoroughly investigate all sides BEFORE forming an opinion.

  16. Interesting concept. Not new, but, interesting. It was Thomas Jefferson who said ” the government is too powerful “. Strangely enough, we didn’t have all these restrictions until shorty after 1920 when a particular group got the vote. They always like to run people’s lives. Seems that there is always someone around who knows what’s better for you than you do. And, they’re all in politics…..or they’re lawyers! Careful out there!

  17. I have never looked at colors as the same as an animals markings. While I understand the point of this article it is a poor analogy to compare the two. Pissing off or messing with a dangerous animal or a bicker gang is straight up a bad idea,and if you don’t know not to do that you shouldn’t be let out of the house by yourself.
    In the case of the police removing a patch from someone’s colors is only going to cause trouble in the future. You can only step on someones (Rights) or kick someone until they rise up and resist. Remember “Don’t Tread On Me” it is still revalent today.

  18. If there is any reason for me to live against the grain. NO ONE imposes their will on me without a fight! Therefore, I will live freely or die fighting for it.

  19. Nature isn’t all or nothing, so neither should we. Oh, by the way, we are all a part of the natural environment!!! Everything and everybody ebbs and flows. The winds of change ever blow bringing about changes in how we view the world and how others view us. That said, I take every individual on an individual basis. Their thinking or language doesn’t dictate whether or not if we develop a friendly relationship primarily based on mutual respect.

  20. Very well said. “Do-gooders” attempts to “correct” things – sometimes have unintended consequences that are worse than leaving things alone. In 1958 there were car clubs displaying aluminum plaques from the rear window… Hot Rods were being “hopped-up” by changing the size of the carburetor jets, as few had any money or skills to do more. Racing developed from some of these teenage adventures. Glory and history goes to the Hell’s Angels… Formula One to the hot rods. Thanks.

  21. Good read, makes good sense from the perspective of the first amendment and the fourth amendment. Scary with government overreach and intrusion.

  22. I’ve been saying the same thing for years (more or less). Let people talk. Let them say what they think. Let them express their beliefs. If they’re not afraid to say what they have on their mind we know whether or not to welcome them or be wary of them. One thing is of utmost importance. We need to know the enemy. He will tell us who he is if we just let him. A polite society is not a bad thing but I’d rather have the chance to face down an opponent than be stabbed in the back by the guy i thought was a friend.

  23. Personally, I’d prefer to have all the visual signals that I can. I would think that the First Amendment would protect the ‘gang’ patches as free speech, but I could be wrong. Thanks for a thought provoking article!

  24. Ya, man.
    I agree , I know on the road the many colors I see. I have been wary of some, and others that I am accustomed to were actually the most hypocritical .
    Like the article.

  25. Very good common sense points. This article highlights the timeless wisdom of the framers of our glorious Constitution. The freedoms they outlined are even more relevant today. All we need to do is stick to that plan.

  26. You make valid points when it comes to identifying threat.
    Mark guardado (papa) president of hells Angel’s Frisco was killed in 08 when mongols first had their patches taken by feds. It was that very maneuver by the feds which led too Papa’s eath. If anything, the government’s seizure and forfeiture of the mongols trademarks, led to Mark’s death, due to fact that enemy was hiding in plain sight. The government should be made accountable. However it’s a game the Gov has played with motorcycle clubs since their inception. No joke. The biker enforcement teams of the 70s are proof. How else did the feds know when things went down, and how they took place, if they were not there when the events took place themselves.
    The mongol thought he was a hero to his brothers.
    Wrong.
    When the feds found the guy, he was holed up at his parents..the mongols had ousted him in fear of retribution..
    They were like..fuck that guy..
    I guess that’s a “brotherhood”

    Sonny’s book should be required reading. It tells of our future under totalitarian regime. And what real freedom is.
    That Freedom isn’t Free!
    You have to fight for it. At all cost.

  27. Aesop said ” Tyrants will always find a pretext for their tryanny.” I believe the greatest sign of danger to a country as a whole is when a persons voice is silenced through legislation.

  28. It’s a unlawful act against your 1st amendment rights not to mention freedom of expression they are committing a unlawful practice of removing anybody’s patch. They should sue the police the state and anybody involved with this illegal act.

  29. That’s kinda like I support Harley Davidson and it wouldn’t be good if you snatched my patch because some of the moves I’ve learned in y’all taking would come to life just sayen badge or no badge it could turn out bad because I believe in constitution right thanks for Sharing the story

  30. I worry more about clowns in expensive suits and silk ties than I worry about 1 percenter patches. They have a simpme credo those bikers.” Give respect, get respect” tie wearers are not as trustworthy in my experiece but both groups rely on tribal display for their own reasons. I wear no patch and i won’t tie a silk rag around my neck to make a point. I ride hard i ride distance and i show respect until i’m not shown it. Just sayin.. either way i won’t let govt. Take a man’s patch OR his tie. Thats’s why I vote.

  31. EXCELLENT article! I’m a 75 yr. old female who has avoided “trouble” all my life. I never thought of it that way but you are absolutely correct…the WAY I have been able to keep myself safe is by noticing the type of cues you mention. Some call it “instinct” but, more likely, it is simply being observant. Laws to remove those identifiers will EITHER make us all blissfully ignorant ELSE in constant jeopardy.

  32. I despise any reference to Ronald Reagan the man was a scripted actor in his performance, in that he did well, however, I despise the man that ruined the rights of Union Rights in the USA. All of Corporate America thanked him for that one and they wrote his script to destroy Unions.
    I think that all groups and people have freedom of speech in this country, and they certainly do not need Gov agencies ripping off Identity patches
    of any group. I do not like nor support some patches IE White supremacist’s or Nazi Identifiers. There is a limit, but would rather know who they are by their patches then not for the purpose of avoiding their hateful mind set.

  33. Just because the police wear a badge does NOT give them ANY additional “Authority” to remove anything a person displays either on their person or on their vehicle. Police are there to enforce LAW not their personal opinions or to infringe on the rights of ANY person within the borders of this nation. I would like to remind people that this behavior didn’t start until after the passage of the Patriot Act which essentially transformed ALL Citizens into Suspects and the police have shown that perception time and time again that we are all guilty until proven dead as they have literally become Judge, Jury and Executioners who constantly deprive innocent people of their rights to due process and the police instantly decide who lives or who dies without being held responsible for their actions. NPSD 51 and the Homegrown terror bills also put the American public in the crosshairs of these rogue police that reinforce the idea that we are all guilty of one crime or another and can be punished by a badge wearing person who has been given the unlawful authority to carry out justice on the side of the road in a supposedly “Free” country where the rule of law is supposed to prevail and not street gang justice through death by cop.

  34. Most people are not concerned with your clothing. That is until they see more than 10 people wearing the same thing. It’s your right if you choose to speak to those people or not. Just like it’s their right to wear what they want. Just remember colors are for letting the rest of the world know who the people are that matter to them . They already know who they are.