In light of the recent shootout in Waco, Texas involving motorcycle clubs, I decided to write this blog to eliminate a lot of the confusion between the terminology of bikers, riders, gangs, riding groups, and m.c. (motorcycle clubs).
The reason is simple enough: whenever a motorcycle is involved, you are guaranteed that the media will say it was biker gang. You never hear of “car gangs,” so obviously, a stigma still exists with motorcycles and those that ride them, and shows like Sons of Anarchy, while entertaining since I was a big fan, doesn’t help.
Even as recent as a few weeks ago when I was posting one of my Leesburg 2015 videos, I came across a video from Leesburg Bike Fest where the title had “scary bikers” and “clubs” and the description read “Motorcycle Gang Review.” Well, a 3 hour mass on an early Sunday morning was more interesting than that video. The video only showed a lot of people hanging around in Leesburg, some were members of motorcycle clubs, some were not. But, the keywords were there; a marketing lesson learned from the media, and now that person has close to 280,000 hits on YouTube.
Many of those depicted in the video were not even M.C.’s, but Associations or LEMC’s (Law Enforcement Motorcycle Clubs) which have nothing to do with M.C.’s. Videos such as that one only proves to me this person knows nothing of the motorcycle culture and that selling “fear” works. I’ve never understood why someone would write an article or speak without knowledge on a specific subject without proper research. The only thing worse is when the media or individuals with knowledge just lie to further their own interests.
Now, speaking of the devil, today, the driver (Alexian Lien) of the infamous video of the black Range Rover that ran over bikers in New York was testifying in court. The first thing you see in the media clip is the heading “motorcycle gang attacks driver.” See what I mean? Not everyone on a motorcycle is in a gang or even an M.C. (Motorcycle Club). Some are just people that ride a motorcycle; take for example Jay Leno and George Clooney.
I have even been asked before “what club do I belong to.” I don’t belong to any club. I created a “independent riding group” called M.S.A.R.(Motorcycle Safety & Awareness Riders). My riding group doesn’t wear patches or even have T-shirts with our group name on it. But, that is the naivety or the poison pill the public at large has been given. God forbid someone rides with patches on the back of their leather vest because if so, it is time to hide the women and children. But, to eliminate the confusion, there is a very easy way to figure all this out and along the way, learn the reality of the motorcycle community rather than focus on myth and urban legends.
An M.C. will have a 3 piece patch. The top patch has the name of the club, their logo in the center, and what is known as the bottom rocker with the state of that particular chapter or M.C. is from. It will also say M.C. on the vest.
A riding group will not have that bottom rocker that reads “Florida” or any other state, and if anything, “RG” or riding group will be on their vest. In addition, with few exceptions, whenever a club member is riding, he is required to wear his vest. So, if you see someone riding and they do not have a vest on, you can assume they do not belong to any club.
In the picture below is a photo of a Harley Davidson vest. Yes, it seems like a 3 piece patch but first of all, we all know that Harley Davidson is not an M.C. Secondly, it doesn’t read “M.C.” anywhere, and finally, no state rocker on the bottom. It’s that simple. Watch again the clip with the Range Rover, and you will see there are no M.C. patches.
Furthermore, it looks as if the only thing that particular group had in common was that they were riding motorcycles. Now, I can accuse those in that video of many things, but being a “gang” is not one of them.
Now, while writing this post, I decided to look up Webster’s definition of “motorcyclist.” According to Webster’s dictionary, it is someone who “is a member of an organized club or gang.” Really? Okay, I guess I will have to provide my own definitions and now I understand why everyone thinks anyone with a motorcycle is a gang member.
Let’s first start with the term “biker.” I personally consider a biker an individual who does belong to an M.C. and if they don’t, at the minimum lives the biker life-style. The rest of us I consider riders, including myself.
Way too often the weekend warrior types call themselves “bikers” because of the image they are trying to convey but just because you own and ride a motorcycle, that does not make you a biker. A rider? Yes. A weekend warrior? Most likely. But not a biker.
Being a biker is a way of life if not all of your life. Bikers in M.C.’s belong to a brotherhood that they consider their family and if not in an M.C., bikers still live, eat, sleep, and breathe the motorcycle sub-culture. Wanting to ride this weekend doesn’t qualify you as a biker. Riders are just riders. There is no “life-style.” We ride on weekends, sometimes during the week, and occasionally we enjoy an out-of-town ride.
Now, I play golf on the weekends. Does that make me a golfer? No! Researching various websites I couldn’t even find the word, even though I am called a “golfer” all the time. Actually, those who play golf like me, just call ourselves “weekend hackers.” If you work on your bike are you a mechanic? If you add parts to your bike are you a bike builder? You see what I am getting at?
As to gangs, I found myself researching the Florida Statutes and I’ll assume Texas has a similar statute. Below is a part of the statute:
(1) “Criminal gang” means a formal or informal ongoing organization, association, or group that has as one of its primary activities the commission of criminal or delinquent acts, and that consists of three or more persons who have a common name or common identifying signs, colors, or symbols, including, but not limited to, terrorist organizations and hate groups.
That definition is exactly why the term “biker gang” should rarely be used. The two words that should stand out are “primary activities.” Thus, if an M.C. or riding group has a member that does participate in crimes, that doesn’t mean that is the primary activity of the club or group, but just the primary activity of that one individual. Now, from a legal standpoint, that doesn’t mean legal issues are avoided for that M.C. or riding group, but by definition, it is NOT a “gang.”
But, let’s be realistic for a second. A news story about a guy riding a motorcycle or a motorcyclist did this or that, will not grab as many headlines as “biker gang!” The media is in the “fear mongering” business. Just watch the news for five minutes if you don’t believe me, then watch it again the last thirty seconds because that is the only time you will get the “feel good” story. You always have to end on a good note.
Now, the same way every rider or biker is not in a gang, is the same way every M.C. is not a “gang.” Again, one individual does not speak for the group. M.C.’s sometimes have thousands of members and many chapters spread out through the state, country, and sometimes the world. Yet, the media lumps them all together when one or a few act out. Give thought for a second to the fact I am an attorney. Per the statute above, are there three or more of us that share a common name? Yes, especially if it is a law firm. Are the “primary activities the commission of criminal or delinquent acts?” Don’t answer that! I already know all the jokes on attorneys. But, seriously, does one attorney speak on my behalf? No.
Now, I am sure there are “M.C.’s” out there that are involved in criminal acts the same way I am sure there are attorneys in a law firm involved in criminal acts, and politicians, and the list goes on in infinity. As a matter of fact, my trial advocacy class in law school was taught by Scott Rothstein, the largest Ponzi Schemer in the state of Florida and the forth largest in history.
You can’t have “good” without having “bad” first. “Bad” helps define good and the fact is, there is bad everywhere. But, before we rush to judgment, lets have the facts play out.
I know the M.C.’s in Miami. I know their members, Presidents, Vice-Presidents, wives/girlfriends, and children. I also know very well their charitable efforts. They not only have their own great charities and causes that they support, but they support mine as well, but you will not see any of that in media because that doesn’t grab headlines.
Good and bad exists in every walk of life. The media? They have their own agenda as I have mine. I admit, our agendas are polar opposites, but, part of my agenda is making people realize that bikers and riders deserve to share the road with automobiles. The image we inherited is not deserved. Don’t believe me? I’ll introduce you to some of those that I ride with and you can decide based on facts and not speculation.
In closing, I also wish to point out that when this story first broke, I did notice a lot of inconsistencies and facts that did not make sense, but I will let time sort that out and I’m sure I’ll be writing more blogs on this case as time goes by.
In the meantime, have fun, ride safe, and be careful. I look forward to seeing you on the road soon.