Volume 5, Issue 1: Spring 2009


Police and Harley Riders: Discrimination and Empowerment

Gary L. Kieffner



The civil rights road is a long one. It is, invariably, a history of unjust actions by one group against another leading to a growing consciousness that injustice exists, followed by the oppressed group’s struggle for equality. Like other groups, motorcyclists in America have been victims of oppression from many sources for over a century.[1] In response, an organized riders’ rights movement has struggled for justice, dignity, and equal rights under the law. Although Harley-Davidson bikers in particular have been castigated by society with a stereotype and imagined to be noisy, rebellious, antisocial, criminal and dangerous, the motorcyclists’ rights movement recognizes its own diversity—riding all kinds of bikes—as well as its similarities with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, women’s liberation in the 1970s, and advances by other oppressed minorities.


This essay examines, analyzes, and proposes legal and legislative solutions for use by advocates of the riders’ civil rights movement and other concerned citizens in the twenty-first century. Following a political scientific format, it includes a call for action and takes into historical consideration only the post-countercultural era. While the focus is on the American Southwest and Midwest, these regions typify the way Harley bikers and other motorcyclists have been treated in many areas of the United States. Of key importance is a manifest prejudice against riders, or anti-biker discrimination, which can be categorized according to its various sources. However, this report surveys only discrimination from one such source: the police.




Police bias against motorcyclists can be traced back to the late nineteenth century—years before Harley-Davidson was founded—even though journalists routinely cite the phenomenon’s origin as the West Coast after World War Two. They have a valid point, as current stereotypes and cultural baggage have largely evolved from late 1940s imagery, resulting in widespread societal prejudice against riders. Likewise, recent and current police animosity may have much to do with sensationalized news accounts as well as the popular movies of the 1950s and 1960s.[2]


Current patterns of police discriminatory practice against bikers thus emerged in the ’60s. After the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts became law, police turned from overt harassment of racial minorities and started to concentrate their attention on other scapegoats including immigrants, young drug users, and Harley riders. Detentions, beatings while handcuffed or in custody, false arrests, expulsions from towns and from states when crossing boundaries, routine failures to cite car drivers who injured bikers or violated the right-of-way, and even murders were committed by police officers, so great was their individual and collective prejudice against bikers.[3] In one of the better documented cases of such authority abuse, in 1976 a group of sixteen Milwaukee police officers handcuffed motorcyclist Roger Lyons, beat him to death with night sticks, threatened witnesses, and then invaded his funeral en masse in full riot gear. They purposefully drove a police car into a bike during the funeral procession and then beat a mourner.[4]Altercations between police and bikers continued into the 1980s.[5]


As late as the mid-1990s, relatively severe forms of police persecution were still evident. Of particular note was one incident on a southern Arizona street in which a group of riders—comprised of both club members and independents and riding many different brands of motorcycles—were accosted by the police. At the time, the cyclists were traveling within the speed limit and obeying all traffic laws. Suddenly, an unmarked vehicle pulled in front of the first bike and slammed on its brakes, nearly causing a multi-vehicle accident. As the black-jumpsuited, armed driver jumped out, other gang taskforce personnel (commonly known as Blackshirts), uniformed police, and plain-clothes officers swarmed upon the startled riders. The police first handcuffed all patch-wearing club members, then detained everyone as they examined documents and searched saddlebags. They found nothing. In this instance, the police violated not only the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution (unreasonable search), but Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 28-693 (reckless driving) and ARS 28-695 (aggressive driving).[6] As this incident proves, the only law-breakers there were the police officers.




Incidents of overwhelming yet restrained police involvement are common even today whenever motorcycle events take place, beyond the numbers of traffic personnel ordinarily present at any large public gathering. A disproportionate amount of police presence exists at most rallies. For example, over one hundred officers were recently assigned to draw overtime pay at the Four Corners Iron Horse Rally held in the land of the Mouache-Capote (Southern Ute Nation). Police gang squads constantly patrolled the campgrounds and an assemblage of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agents, along with a SWAT Team were also present all weekend, even though motorcycle events are almost always controlled by internal security and require no further intervention. The 2005 Fire and Ice Rally in Grants, New Mexico witnessed no fewer than twelve state, federal, and local agencies patrolling its small, fenced-in area in four-person squads. The 1990s biker expression “There were more cops than people” is no longer a shocker but a cliché in the twenty-first century. The degree of police presence at the Grants rally and most others is adversely prejudicial in comparison to their presence—or, rather, absence—at similar-sized, non-rider gatherings.[7]


Although popular myth tends to associate bikers with criminality and violence, the reality is quite different. Moreover, aggressive police activity is not restricted to the targeting of only patch-holding[8] motorcycle club members. In 1998, for example, after the police in Arizona completed their profiling of clubs, they began to harass and profile Harley Owners Group (HOG) members. They then went after Japanese-brand riders in January of 2001, issuing traffic tickets while detaining, harassing, and compiling information about individuals who ride.[9] After a Texas police sensitivity training law—designed to curb police harassment or profiling of motorcycle operators—went into effect, officers changed tactics and conducted fewer traffic stops of the more politically aware, typically Harley-riding population and instead harassed younger, often politically inept, sport bike riders.[10] Yet, the singling out of people according to their personal transportation is a violation of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1. “Nor shall any State . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” A few officers routinely commit unprofessional, dangerous, and inappropriate tactics, aggressive verbal baiting, or other abuse against innocent motorcyclists.[11]


Such issues surrounding specific, questionable encounters with police personnel should be addressed in the context of the First Amendment’s guarantee to peacefully assemble, which the Court has interpreted to include “freedom of association.”[12] Other important issues concern police failure to understand that a club’s identifying patches, worn on their jackets or vests, are a protected form of free speech.[13] Police are also obligated to uphold the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches, the Fifth Amendment’s due process provision, and the Ninth Amendment’s guarantee of personal rights. Furthermore, selective, biased enforcement tactics are clearly violations of the Constitution’s equal treatment provision.[14] Police anti-motorcycling activities appear to routinely violate constitutional law as indicated by the sheer volume of complaints received by the Modified Motorcycle Association (MMA) and other riders’ groups that monitor their police. As Robert Rasor, President of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) said, “If the U.S. Constitution makes no distinction between two wheels and four, neither should public officials.”[15]


This is a view that judges, magistrates, and justices sometimes share. In several cases, the courts have reined in police discrimination towards motorcyclists. One such instance began on September of 1994 when Spartanburg, South Carolina Police Chief W.C. Bain authorized a rider harassment operation at a riding event benefiting the American Red Cross. His officers stopped every bike to check identification, search saddlebags, and videotape detainees. As a result, and perhaps surprisingly, Chief Bain lost his job and was sued. He then requested qualified immunity[16] from prosecution; however, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals denied his motion on the grounds that he should have known that his searches would be unconstitutional. The Court found that Bain and the City of Spartanburg had violated the plaintiff motorcyclists’ Fourth Amendment rights and awarded each rider one dollar in damages. However, the Court found that the Spartanburg Police camcorders were legal because the people were videotaped only after they were detained.[17] 


In another, early 2000 example of encroaching autocratic tendencies, a court officer challenged a judge in Tucson, Arizona. Her Honor had chastised the officer for arresting two motorcycle club members in the gallery who had refused to remove their vests. She told the officer that the First Amendment was applicable in the situation and ordered the bikers’ handcuffs removed. Forgetting his oath, the plenary status of the Court, and his duty to uphold the law, the admonished officer then proceeded to use the media to criticize the Court’s actions, ironically claiming that the judge should back up the police. “We need to be supported when we enforce . . . policies,” the officer declared even though such a policy did not, in fact, exist.[18] Here correct civic theory—that a constable enforces decisions of the magistrate and not vice versa—was misinterpreted and inappropriately acted upon by an errant and insubordinate public servant.


Interest Groups


In response to police harassment, a sometimes-unfriendly legislative and juridical environment, and perceived infringements upon their constitutional and civil rights, more Harley riders started to organize politically and were joined by countless motorcyclists riding other brands as the movement progressed. In 1972, a motorcycle magazine published an article asking readers to join a new motorcyclists’ rights organization (MRO) called “A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments” (ABATE). By the end of the 1970s, state and local-level ABATEs and other such MROs had organized in most places around North America.[19] The primary reason for forming this grassroots political network was to organize and affect legislation that was unrelated to police issues. Yet, the riders also sought ways to curb harassment. Riding in a large, or even small, group was considered safer than riding alone during those turbulent years.[20]


Even though these MRO motorcyclists have successfully influenced legislation, motorcyclists do not fit most definitions of an “interest group” per se. Virtually all counter-hegemonic or other political impulses by riders arise from necessity only, since the majority of cyclists simply want to be left alone to ride freely and unencumbered. The fundamental values and intangible personal goals embraced by bikers—the freedom, bliss, inner peace, mobility, re-creation, and unity with nature discussed by other authors—tend to work against the level of group participation required for effective political activism. Therefore, not every motorcyclist is a member of an MRO or is even aware enough about pertinent issues to desire membership or to become active in the protection of motorcycling’s future. The MROs attract few—perhaps only ten to thirteen percent of—American riders. Nonetheless, since individual rights and the concept of freedom are highly valued among the motorcycling public (indeed, among Americans), virtually all other motorcyclists—especially those who are aware—respect and appreciate the MROs.[21] Riders have no single identity, many value the highly individual-oriented autonomy experienced in the ride itself, some are completely unaware of issues that are going to affect their lives, others are not team players and, therefore, they collectively cannot be considered an interest group. 


The 22 billion-dollar manufacturing and aftermarket parts industry can sometimes be a helpful interest group. Companies that manufacture and sell customized motorcycles, parts, accessories, clothing, and other equipment, goods and services have a stake in popular biker culture and in keeping motorcycling fun and viable. In this way, they are a larger-than-usual example of extreme sports industries. Although the motorcycle industry does not get involved as much as it could, many companies and business owners have contributed to the AMA and other MROs.[22]


The police are an interest group to the extent that they are compelled to justify the cost of their special operations expenses in their quests for larger portions of the public budget, and are themselves politically engaged at one corner of their own iron triangle. The classic political iron triangle consists of three power centers that help each other: a commercial interest group, a federal (executive branch) regulatory agency, and a congressional committee, all three scratching each others’ backs. For example, the military iron triangle consists of the Department of Defense, congressional defense committees, and the military contractors’ lobbies. President Dwight D. Eisenhower called that particular triangle a “Military-Industrial Complex” and warned citizens to not allow its power to increase.[23]


In the case of the police industry’s iron triangle, however, citizen control is decreased because Congress is not one of the three corners. Instead, federal agencies (such as the FBI, ATF, and others), the multibillion-dollar police technology industry, and state or local police departments are the three corners of the triangle. I identify this as a Police-Industrial Complex, since Foucauldean power centers of federal and local police agencies are directly linked to commercial interests. There seems to be little Congressional oversight in how these agencies and industries work together in the assignation and appropriation of state and local police resources.[24] 


Policy Makers and “Wanna-Be” Policy Makers 


In a representative democracy, policy is supposed to be made by elected officials. As issues became more complex over the years, these representatives began to entrust some policy-making to executive-branch agencies at both the state and federal levels. This becomes problematic whenever public servants in such agencies make policy contrary to legislative intent or in violation of the letter of the law. It is possible that some personnel in executive branch agencies have embedded their personal prejudices into policy in order to exercise control over other people in arbitrary or discriminatory ways. As a result, the people, through elected officials, must continually work to rein in and control such bureaucrats.


When elected officials, on the other hand, are not responsive to constituents’ instructions, then people need to work together to remove them from office by actively campaigning for, and electing, someone more responsive. Over the years, MROs have become adept in this political process. As motorcyclists have become more politically aware and relevant, they have begun to elect their own candidates, through both political parties, into office. Many of these new candidates at the state, federal, and local levels are MRO members who are intimately aware of riders’ issues. Non-riding legislators of both parties, also, are usually receptive to cyclists’ concerns.[25]


In addition to legislative bodies, the other legitimate policy maker is the Court. This branch of government is actually older than democracy, but it can be useful in securing and maintaining motorcyclists’ rights. To riders, the main utility of the Court is to ensure that agents of the state and others will observe and respect people’s rights.[26]


In addition to legitimate policy makers, some police agency personnel, at both federal and state levels, appear to be under the mistaken notion that they are independent of standard legal precepts or principles. In his book Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis, Christian Parenti identifies this disturbing phenomenon as an emerging police state. He accurately links steadily increasing police agency autonomy to the enactment of new federal and state forfeiture laws and their loosening of financial controls as police become increasingly addicted to what he calls piracy. Linda Deutsch, an Associated Press reporter, writes that such new developments raise “concerns over lost civil liberties.” One public defender said, “It’s what was predicted in science fiction of the 1930s and ’40s . . . we are becoming a punitive world with no rights for people.”[27] America is not a police state, and peace officers in the United States are not supposed to be policy makers. Yet, a few officers, hiding behind legitimate authoritative positions, are wasting millions of dollars threatening Americans’ liberty through the Courts.[28]


Incentives Operating on Policy Makers


While the Court and elected representatives are the only legitimate policy makers, agencies are merely set up to execute the will of the people via their representatives. The Court balances the spirit of the law and the letter of the law with the case at hand, discovering or “finding” justice and making the final ruling.


Just as Europeans associate rock ’n’ roll and Harleys with Americans, many US Congress members and legislators see the motorcycle as a symbol of freedom. Moreover, Harley-Davidson is a very visible icon in everyday life, even while riders form an increasingly important and cohesive voting bloc. If numerically strong and active, MROs can effectively persuade their legislators. Legislators who desire support from politically relevant groups pay attention to bikers’ concerns, while elected officials who ride or who have active MROs in their districts are aware of such issues. Riders can count on these politicians as long as their MROs are actively seeking the legislators’ support.


Some legislators work against the power curve, however. Although anti-motorcyclist politicians in recent years are rare, a personal agenda motivated at least one—California Assemblymen Dick Floyd—to propel a mandatory helmet law. Moreover, legislators from districts with inactive MROs are completely unaware of riders’ issues. When an MRO appears, these politicians are sometimes afraid to respond, because they are unable to identify or understand the cyclists’ political agenda. Unless educated about the issues and the numbers of motorcyclists in their district, there is a risk that these policy makers will inadvertently oppose riders’ interests.[29]


Incentives Operating on “Wanna-Be” Policy Makers


The reasons for police animosity toward motorcyclists are complex and may have much to do with the fictional “bikers” portrayed in movies and on television. Even so, most officers on the beat are ethical professionals who are not out there to get bikers. Although most peace officers may be intelligent enough to discern the difference between fact and fiction (or legitimate police training and brainwashing), many non-riding citizens, even today, are not. Senior police officials have been known to take advantage of the public’s paranoid imagination and tendency towards stereotyping to further their agencies’ iron triangle fiscal agendas. Typically, a police department will use the press to frighten citizens into believing that a biker threat exists, as outlined in an in-depth news article by Davis Sheremata subtitled “Cash-Strapped Police are Creating a Scare to Get More Money.” If the media cooperates sufficiently and stirs up public hysteria, then the police can often secure a higher budget.[30] While Sheremata writes that citizens are becoming more aware and intolerant of police fraud and abuse and that this kind of public manipulation to induce panic and increase outlays is not working anymore, the hysteria of post-9-11 and the Patriot Act suggests otherwise and that most people really are gullible if not irresponsible.[31]


Another clue concerning why police units such as gang task forces and Arizona’s Gang Intelligence Tactical Enforcement Mission (GITEM) have targeted cyclists can be found at the Scottsdale, Arizona Police Department’s web site. As in some other states, the word “gang” is defined by Arizona law. The statute is ambiguously worded; therefore, officers in the field interpret it subjectively and arbitrarily. Scottsdale PD’s website presents the “ethnicity” demographics of this upscale city’s “criminal street gangs.” Their statistics indicate a predominantly “Hispanic” participation (37%), with other ethnicities represented to a smaller degree. Yet, they claim that their second-largest “gang” ethnicity is “White,” at 33%.[32]


The fact that Scottsdale PD tracks the ethnicity of its target populations raises an interesting question. While the archetypical “gang member” presented in the central Arizona popular media seems to be non-white (even when Scottsdale is in the news), Arizona motorcyclists could usually be considered “White” by Scottsdale’s categorization. Is it possible that the police made a conscious decision to include bikers as “gangs” in order to reframe their statistics, open a new target group, and thus avoid racial discrimination accusations against GITEM?[33]




Regardless of whether Arizona police officers had redefined “gang,” to justify the racist persecution of minority youth by including some mostly white cycle groups, creeping totalitarianism is a significant threat to not only motorcycle culture but to everyone.[34] Attention must be paid to who gains power and wealth from advancing an anti-biker stance. Special-purpose police and police equipment manufacturers profit at the expense of riders, minorities, and all other citizens. While motorcyclists are a small percentage of the general population, the threats to individualism, dignity, and civil liberties that they face are mirrored in similar threats to other populations, including racialized minorities and everyone who drives their late-model cars—complete with potentially privacy-violating GPS and vehicle data recorders—through stop lights rigged with “stool pigeon” cameras.[35] Not only the power center that I have identified as a Police-Industrial Complex but other anti-motorcycle and anti-citizen power structures and the financial dimensions of their agendas need to be the subject of further study.


In reference to shorter-term remedies, all motorcyclists should join their state MRO as well as the national MROs (the Motorcycle Riders Foundation and the AMA). It is imperative that the entire motorcycling membership simultaneously contacts its elected representatives, in a well-coordinated manner, whenever impending legislation may affect riders’ lives or rights.[36] Members must actively present applicable facts, legitimate data, and requested information to their legislators as persistently as their political opponents’ lobbyists do. In many cases, coordinated organizations of riders need to also appeal to their legislators’ Jeffersonian-Jacksonian, freedom-related values, their sense of morality, and their concerns in an American context and lexicon.


An unavoidable and inevitable challenge to motorcycling remains: to effectively ensure that every police officer in America is well educated in basic American civics and constitutional law. In states that have a history of police harassment of riders, sensitivity training to make them conscientious peace officers and to curb such abuse should be incorporated into their instruction. Such a program is operating in Texas because of the efforts of the Texas Motorcycle Rights Association who lobbied for such legislation; the bill became law in 2001. This law could be utilized as a model in other states. In addition, police and federal investigative agencies should be investigated whenever profiling is alleged to have occurred.[37]


MROs must be pragmatic and flexible enough to quickly evaluate, acquire consensus, and respond to changing legislative conditions. The success of such efforts sometimes depends on an extensive email listserve network or a strong, charismatic leader. In some places, an especially effective approach has been for MRO leaders to candidly advise certain legislators that honesty is mandatory and that if s/he is not honest with motorcyclists or fails to support their concerns, s/he will be replaced by a biker in the next election. Such advice must sometimes be followed up by extensive volunteer work by riders, many of whom should already be precinct leaders or officials within the appropriate political party. [38] 


There may be different ways to deal with unfair conditions, depending on specific legislation and other circumstances. No doubt, motorcycles have become a symbol of American freedom; however, all motorcyclists must work together to keep themselves and their children in a state of liberty. Riders seek equal protection under the law rather than any special considerations. In the long run, without justice for motorcyclists, there is ultimately no justice for anyone.


For more information:

See your state MRO, usually under the name “ABATE of (name of state),” as well as the (national) Motorcycle Riders Foundation at http://www.mrf.org/ or the AMA at http://www.ama-cycle.org/.


On the protection of cyclists’ rights through the Court, including First Amendment rights, contact: Aid to Injured Motorcyclists / National Coalition of Motorcyclists (AIM / NCOM), http://www.aimncom.com/






[1]The first draft of this chapter was presented as a conference paper prior to the events of September 11, 2001 and the hysterical passage of the Patriot Act two months later. I am grateful for my experience at the 2001 Southwest / Texas Popular Culture Association Annual Meeting and am indebted to Peter C. Rollins of Oklahoma State University for suggesting that motorcycling culture and myth may be a worthwhile subject area for an academic conference. I am grateful also to Sputnik, my responder at that conference, who suggested that mid-century motorcyclists fought back against the machine, thus showing me how agency may be provided to an Other who was not merely a passive victim. Such work is in progress, while this present essay is relatively unchanged but truncated to focus only on police discrimination. See Gary L. Kieffner, “Fifty-three Years After Hollister: Institutionalized Discrimination Against Motorcyclists,” in Proceedings of the Southwest/Texas Popular and American Culture Associations (SW/TEX PCA/ACA) Years 2000-2003, ed. Leslie Fife, (Pasadena, Tex.: SW/TEX PCA/ACA, 2003), 1639-1654. Compact disc.

[2]In this essay, only A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments (ABATE) and similar late twentieth-century organizations are discussed. Earlier riders’ rights organizations were formed in 1880, 1903, and 1924. See Gary L. Kieffner, “Legend Unknown: A Cultural, Gendered History of Motorcyclists in the American Southwest,” (Flagstaff: Northern Arizona University, 2003), Master’s Thesis. Also, Gary L. Kieffner, “Riding the Borderlands: The Negotiation of Socio-cultural, Economic, and Hegemonic Boundaries for Rio Grande Valley and Southwestern Motorcycling Groups, 1919 to 2000,” Doctoral dissertation in progress. Wendy Moon, “The Biker’s Debt to Bicyclists, Scorching the Trail: Two-wheeled Culture’s Roots are Showing,” Thunder Press, South Edition, April 2004, 26-28. Sammy Kent Brooks, “The Motorcycle in American Culture: From Conception to 1935,” (Washington, D.C.: George Washington University, 1975), Ph.D. Dissertation. (American Civilization). Michael Krikorian, “The Day that Kicked Bikers’ Wild Image into High Gear,” Los Angeles Times, 2 May 1996, A1, A14. Jerry Smith, “Mountains From Molehills,” American Rider, November 1993, 46-50. Frank Rickabaugh Arnold, “Ordinary Motorcycle Thrills: The Circulation of Motorcycle Meanings in American Film and Popular Culture,” (Los Angeles: University of Southern California, 1997), Ph.D. Dissertation. Frank Rooney, “Cyclists’ Raid,” Harper’s Magazine, January 1951, 34-44. Hal Burton, “Most Unpopular Men on the Road,” Saturday Evening Post, 25 September 1954, 130. Joseph M. Newman, dir., “Black Leather Jackets,” The Twilight Zone, Episode 138 (31 January 1964), CBS, 1959-1964, Television serial. Osborn Elliott, ed., “California: The Wild Ones,” Newsweek, 29 March 1965, 25. William Murray, “Hell’s Angels,” Saturday Evening Post, 20 November 1965, 32-39. Hedley Donovan, ed., “Mayhem on Motorcycles,” Time, 29 July 1966, 33. Hedley Donovan, ed., “Requiem for an Angel,” Time, 21 January 1966, 57. Hedley Donovan, ed., “The Wilder Ones,” Time, 26 March 1965, 23B. Hunter S. Thompson, “The Motorcycle Gangs: Losers and Outsiders,” Nation, 17 May 1965, 524-525. Harris Edward Dark, “Your Youngster and the Motorcycle,” Today’s Health 45-5 (May 1967): Cover, 20-24. Jon Krakauer, “A Hog is Still a Hog, but the ‘Wild Ones’ are Tamer,” Smithsonian 24-8 (November, 1993): 88-106. For a list of the films, see the Allison Perlman, “The Brief Ride of the Biker Movie.”  International Journal of Motorcycle Studies 3.1 (March 2007): http://ijms.nova.edu/March2007/IJMS_Artcl.Perlman.html. Although crime occurs in virtually every other societal group, the few individual biker-related incidents have constantly received a disproportionably higher amount of news coverage. For example, see Don H. Shamblin, “Brotherhood of Rebels: An Exploratory Analysis of a Motorcycle Outlaw Contraculture,” (Buffalo: State University of New York at Buffalo, 1971), Ph.D. Dissertation. (Sociology), 52-53. It is telling that while the RICO statutes have often been used against motorcycle clubs, virtually all prosecutions failed to make their case.

[3]Ernesto Chávez, !Mi Raza Primero!(My People First!): Nationalism, Identity, and Insurgency in the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, 1966-1978 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). Timothy J. Dunn, The Militarization of the U.S.-México Border, 1978-1992: Low-Intensity Conflict Doctrine Comes Home (Austin: Center for Mexican American Studies, University of Texas, 1996). Peter Andreas, Border Games: Policing the U.S-Mexico Divide (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001, 2000). Jorge Bustamante, Cruzar la linea: la migración de México a los Estados Unidos (México D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1997). David C. Gutiérrez, Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). Philippe Bourgois, In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, 1995). Christian Parenti, Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis (New York: Verso, 1999). Terry H. Anderson, The Sixties (New York: Longman, 1999). California Attorney General’s Office, Department of Justice (CA AGO DJ), “Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Clubs.” March 15, 1965. 20 Pp. with taped leaf amendments. Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California. CA DJ, Division of Law Enforcement (DLE), Bureau of Criminal Statistics (BCS), “Profile of Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Membership.” Research Report No. 9. June 2, 1973. 6 Pp. Government Publications Section, California State Library, Sacramento, California. Chris Bavasi, interview by author, Tape recording, Flagstaff, Arizona, 30 October 1998. Bavasi was Mayor and a former police motor-officer of Flagstaff, Arizona. Nancy Miller [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Phoenix, Arizona, 24 October 1998. Her name is changed and the tape was destroyed in accordance with the American Historical Association (AHA), Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct, “Statement on Interviewing for Historical Documentation,” paragraph 4 (1999) in order to protect the source. Bill Reilly, interview by author, Tape recording, Flagstaff, Arizona, 25 January 2001. Char Zack, interview by author, Tape recording, Cottonwood, Arizona, 16 March 1999. Randi [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Mesa, Arizona, 21 February 2001. Name changed i.a.w. AHA. Bobbi J. Hartmann, interview by author, Tape recording, Phoenix, Arizona, 20 March 1999. Lisa Whitacre, interview by author, Typed e-mail responses to prepared questions, 7 January 2001. Whitacre is a former Yavapai County ABATE Political Action Coordinator. Lisa Whitacre, interview by author, Tape recording, Jerome, Arizona, 19 February 2001. Ding [pseud.], interview by author, Handwritten notes, Phoenix, Arizona, 11 April 2001. The source declined to be tape-recorded. George Rivera [Clayman], interview by author, Tape recording, Pine, Arizona, 20 January 2001. Jamal McGrath, interview by author, Tape recording, Gallup, New Mexico, 15 October 2000. Paul D. Bond, “Fuck Society Fuck All of Them Assholes: An Interview with the Galloping Goose Motorcycle Club,” New Orleans NOLA Express, 30 October-12 November 1970, Cover, 11-14. Problem Child [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Prescott, Arizona, 26 February 2001. Name changed and the tape destroyed i.a.w. AHA. Brian Smith, interview by author, Flagstaff, Arizona, 21 February 2001. Benjamin Baughman, interview by author, Williams, Arizona, 20 February 2001. R. Orren, “Ride to Oblivion,” Easyriders, June 1974, 15. Spider, “Birmingham Biker Shot by Motorist,” Easyriders, April 1974, 4. Larry W. “Rabbit” Cole, “To My Brother, With Love,” Easyriders, April 1974, 4, 20-21. “Weird” Willie, “Requiem for an Individualist,” Supercycle, July 1979, 26-28. Alien, “The Line on Why We Need Anti-Discrimination Legislation,” (ABATE of Arizona) Master Link, December 1996, 1. Chris Kallfelz, “Koella Cops a Plea: Senator Pleads No Contest to Fatal Hit-and-Run Charge,” American Motorcyclist, July 1997, 18-19. Bruce Jones, ed., “Driver Kills Three Motorcyclists, Pays $70 in Fines,” ABATE of Kansas Newsletter, June 2004, 17. Kieffner, “Legend Unknown.” Kieffner, “Riding the Borderlands.”


[5]Ibid. Baughman, Interview. Problem Child, Interview. Danny Kwami [Doc] Barnes, interview by author, Typed e-mail responses to prepared questions, 28 January 2001. Bavasi, Interview. McGrath, Interview. Miller, Interview. Officer Smith and Deputy Jones [pseuds.], interview by author, Tape recording, Flagstaff, Arizona, 7 October 1998. “Smith” and “Jones” were Arizona Gang Intelligence Tactical Enforcement Mission (GITEM) officers (the local metropolitan version of the Arizona gang taskforce). Names changed i.a.w. AHA. Whitacre, Interview by e-mail. Whitacre, Interview by audiocassette. Zack, Interview. Paco [Range Wolf] Ortiz [pseud.], interview by author, Flagstaff, Arizona, 20 September 2000. Name changed i.a.w. AHA. Brenda Rogers [pseud.], interview by author, Phoenix, Arizona, 7 August 1999. Name changed i.a.w. AHA. Brian Smith. Interview. ABATE of Arizona List server, “Killed by the cops,” E-mail to Waldo, 15 March 2001. According to this e-mail, a Phoenix Police officer handcuffed Jason Wolfe, shot him in the back, then threw him to the ground and beat him to death. The incident apparently occurred in Wolfe’s friend’s private backyard.

[6]U.S. Const. Amend. 4. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. sec. 28-693. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. sec. 28-695. Barnes, Interview. McGrath, Interview. Miller, Interview. Whitacre, Interview by e-mail. Whitacre, Interview by audiocassette. Zack, Interview. Ortiz, Interview. Rogers, Interview. ABATE of Arizona List server, “Killed by the cops.” Bruce Meltdown Newkirk, “Introducing the Motorcycle Rights Task Force…Zero Tolerance Level,” (Modified Motorcycle Association of Arizona) Motorcycle Patriot, July 1998, 1, 3. Run participants ride side-by-side and in a close formation in order to prevent accidents (the injudicious in-between cutting by cars). Yet, reckless car drivers or a four-wheeler slamming on its brakes, in front of such a group of vehicles, can be problematic.

[7]Arizona, Department of Public Safety, “Fiscal Year 1996-97: To Improve Community Safety through Cooperative Tactical Enforcement Programs,” http://www.dps.state.az.us/fy96-97/fy96-gl.htm. 1998. 1-2. Hartmann, Interview. Kieffner, “Riding the Borderlands.” Krakauer, “A Hog is Still a Hog,” 88-89. Newkirk, “Introducing the Motorcycle Rights Task Force,” 1, 3. Tim Anderson, “Denver Police Should Be Ashamed,” Southwest Scooter News, April 2002, 2. Gary L. Kieffner, Participant observation, 1998-2003 and Participant reflection, 1978-1998. Thousands of organized motorcycle rallies and events occur every year, providing a clear pattern of differential police treatment should one compare that rendered to motorcycle-related events to that of non-motorcycle related events.

[8]“Patch-holding” clubs are those in which members wear the same large, (usually) embroidered patch on their backs, especially those clubs in which full members wear three-piece back-patches.

[9]Modified Motorcycle Association of Arizona, Inc. (MMA-AZ), “MMA-AZ Motorcycle Rights Task Force Traffic Stop Report Form.” Copies of documents filled out as the results of traffic stops returning homeward from the Arizona State Legislature, 21 January 2001. Names withheld i.a.w. AHA. Reilly, Interview. Zack, Interview. Francis M. Peeler, interview by author, Tape recording, Flagstaff, Arizona, 31 January 2001. Ding, Interview. McGrath, Interview. Rivera, Interview. Whitacre, Interview via e-mail. Hartmann, Interview. Miller, Interview. Randi, Interview. Bavasi, Interview. Kieffner, Participant observation, 1998-2001.

[10]Texas Title 10 Sub. F Sec. 1701.253(e). The statute reads, “As part of the minimum curriculum requirements relating to the vehicle and traffic laws of this state, the commission [on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education] shall require an education and training program on laws relating to the operation of motorcycles and to the wearing of protective headgear by motorcycle operators and passengers. In addition, the commission shall require education and training on motorcycle operator profiling awareness and sensitivity training.” Texas Motorcycle Rights Association (TMRA2) El Paso Chapter, Minutes of the El Paso Chapter Monthly Meeting, 19 November 2003. Kieffner, Participant observation, 2001-2003.

[11]U.S. Const. Amend. 14. sec. 1. MMA-AZ, “MMA-AZ Motorcycle Rights Task Force Traffic Stop Report Form.” Names withheld i.a.w. AHA. Reilly, Interview. Zack, Interview. Peeler, Interview. Ding, Interview. McGrath, Interview. Rivera, Interview. Whitacre, Interview via e-mail. Hartmann, Interview. Miller, Interview. Randi, Interview. Bavasi, Interview. TMRA2 El Paso Chapter, Minutes. Kieffner, Participant observation, 1998-2003. For other profiling-related sources, see Cable News Network, LP, LLLP, “CNN.com - Ashcroft Calls for Elimination of Racial Profiling – March 1, 2001,” Internet. http://www.cnn.com/2001/ALLPOLITICS/03/01/racial.profiling.02/. December 14, 2003. 1-2. Also, Amnesty International, “Political Profiling,” Internet. http://www.amnestyusa.org/amnestynow/profiling.html. December 14, 2003. 1-4. Sahara Biker, “Shakedown: Police Misconduct and Profiling,” Internet. http://www.saharabiker.com/shakedown.html. December 14, 2003. 1-11. MrWizard, “Outsiders MC Web Portal – Hearings Held on Biker Profiling,” Internet. http://outsidersmc.info/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=358. December 14, 2003. 1-2. Newkirk, “Introducing the Motorcycle Rights Task Force,” 1, 3.

[12]U.S. Const. Amend. 1. Ames v. Vavreck, 356 F. Supp. 931.

[13]Ibid. U.S. Const. Amend. 1. Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15. Bill Bish, “Coast to Coast Biker News: Nevada Courthouse Cannot Ban Biker Garb,” (ABATE of California) Bailing Wire, October 2003, 6.

[14]U.S. Const. Amends. 4, 5, 9, 14. sec. 1. The Fourth Amendment states, in part, that police searches may not be conducted without probable cause and a Warrant and that the Warrant must describe both “the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” All of the new forfeiture laws seem to be illegal violations of the Fifth Amendment that states, in part, “No person . . . shall be deprived of . . . property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” One may wonder whether the Ninth Amendment, which places personal rights above governmental powers, is beyond the comprehension capabilities of some public servants. Amendment 14, Section 1 is the equal treatment provision.

[15]Chris Kallfelz, “Appealing Decision: Appellate Court Upholds Spartanburg Ruling,” American Motorcyclist, August 1998, 16. MMA-AZ, “Motorcycle Rights Task Force Traffic Stop Report Form.”

[16]A form of exemption from the law. Kallfelz, “Appealing Decision,” 16. Bobbi Hartmann, “Judge Issues Favorable Ruling in Spartanburg Trial,” ABATE of Arizona PAC Report, July 1998, 2.

[17]Ibid. Kallfelz, “Appealing Decision,” 16.

[18]Tim Steller, “Tucson Hells Angels Stand Their Ground: Judge Upholds Their Rights,” Motorcycle Patriot 10-4 (April 2000), 11.

[19]Bill Bish, “A History of ABATE of California,” attachment to a letter from Bill Bish to the author. 24 May 1999. National Coalition of Motorcyclists letterhead, 4 pp. Bill Bish, “Brief History of Biker’s Rights in America.” Masterlink, July 2000, 1-2. Modified Motorcycle Association of California (MMA-CA), “Helmet Facts.” Flyer, circa. 1983. Lou [Barf] Kimzey, ed., “ABATE,” Easyriders, 13 November 1972. Lou [Barf] Kimzey, ed., “ABATE,” Easyriders, 17 October 1973. Lou [Barf] Kimzey, ed., “Street Legal Chopper Circa 1973?” Easyriders, October 1971. Lou [Barf] Kimzey, ed., “ABATE Membership in 44 States have Started Working Toward Our Freedom of the Road,” Easyriders, February 1972, as quoted in ABATE of Minnesota, “History of ABATE,” Internet. http://ic.owatonna.mn.us/~hjknip/abate%20History.htm. 1998. 1-5. Lou [Barf] Kimzey, ed., “California Tells DOT Where to Get Off!” Easyriders, November 1974, 54. Fred M. H. Gregory, “Washington Report: More MPG in the 1980s and a Rebuff for the DOT,” Motor Trend, April 1976, 16. Lou [Barf] Kimzey, ed., “ABATE,” Easyriders, May 1976, 57. American Motorcyclist Association, “In the Fast Lane,” Internet. http://www.ama-cycle.org/legisltn/100yrs/fastlane.asp. December 13, 2003. 1-2. Kieffner, Participant reflection, 1978-1998. Some ABATEs have changed the meaning of the acronym; examples include “American Bikers Aimed Towards Education” and “Alaska Bikers Advocating Training and Education.”

[20]Ibid. Barbara Joans, Bike Lust: Harleys, Women, and American Society (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001), 252. Kimzey, “ABATE,” 13 November 1972. Kimzey, “ABATE,” 17 October 1973. Kimzey, “Street Legal Chopper?” Kimzey, “ABATE Membership in 44 States,” 1-5. Kimzey, “California Tells DOT!” 54. Gregory, “Washington Report,” 16. Kimzey, “ABATE,” May 1976, 57. MMA-CA, “Helmet Facts.” American Motorcyclist Association, “In the Fast Lane,” 1-2.

[21]At the turn of the millennium in Flagstaff, Arizona, only two of the ten ABATE officers rode Harleys. The rest rode Hondas and Kawasakis: sportbikes and cruisers (Joans, Bike Lust, 71). For explanations or interpretations of the Ride, see Martin Jack Rosenblum, The Holy Ranger: Harley-Davidson Poems (Milwaukee: Lion Publishing, 1989). Also, Garri Garripoli and Friends, Tao of the Ride: Motorcycles and the Mechanics of the Soul (Deerfield Beach, Fla.: Health Communications, Inc., 1999). Melissa Holbrook Pierson, The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is about Motorcycles (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1997). Mark “Tiger” Edmonds, Longrider: A Million Miles on Motorcycles and the Story that goes With Them (Livingston: Livingston Press, University of West Alabama, 1998).

[22]Kieffner, Participant observation, 1998-2004. MROs have enjoyed varying degrees of success when soliciting newsletter/magazine advertising space or sponsorship, material donations (for event prizes), or other forms of MRO support. For example, see the number of ads and evidence of donated support in Marc Falsetti, ed., (ABATE of Indiana) Hoosier Motorcyclist, December 2003. Also, Bob Arthur, ed., ABATE of Washington Newsletter, December 2003.

[23]Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Military-Industrial Complex Speech,” 1961, in “Public Papers of the Presidents, 1960,” 1035- 1040, reproduced in The Avalon Project, Yale University Law School “The Avalon Project, Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961,” Internet. http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/presiden/speeches/eisenhower001.htm. December 13, 2003. 1-6.

[24]For brevity, academic discussion concerning the observance, deconstruction, and analysis of a Police Industrial Complex (PIC) does not appear here. See Kieffner, “Riding the Borderlands.” For more on power centers and structures, see Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan (London: Tavistock, 1972). Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Pantheon, 1977). Michel Foucault. The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction (New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 1976, 1990). Parenti, Lockdown America. Donald Black, The Behavior of Law (San Diego: Academic Press, 1980). Tara Herivel, Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America’s Poor (New York: Routledge, 2003). Joel Dyer, The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits from Crime (Boulder: Westview Press, 1999). A sample of websites indicating the existence of a PIC commercial power center includes Police Plaza, “Police Plaza,” Internet. http://www.leolinks.com/PolicePlaza/. 2002. The Spy Shop, “Welcome to the Spy Shop,” Internet. http://www.w2.com/docs2/z/spyshop.html 2002. The Spy Shop, “Countermeasures,” Internet. http://www.w2.com/docs2/z/spyshopcounter.html. 2002. The Spy Shop “Night Vision Equipment,” Internet. http://www.w2.com/docs2/z/spyshopnight.html. 2002.

[25]Woodrow Wilson, “The Study of Administration,” in Classics of Public Administration, eds. Jay M. Shafritz and Albert C. Hyde (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1978, 1992), 11-24, esp. 16-17. Cook, “AMA News and Notes: Louisiana,” 56. Bill Bish, “Coast to Coast Biker News: Riding the Campaign Trail,” Masterlink, September 2003, 14. Bill Walker, “Democratic Convention Report,” (Texas Motorcycle Rights Association) Lone Star Warrior, May 2004, 29-30. Gideon Jones, “Republican Convention Reports,” Lone Star Warrior, May 2004, 25-26. “U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell Wins Primary,” Masterlink, October 1998, 1. Deb Craig, “Colorado Senator Introduces Motorcycle Awareness Month,” (ABATE of) Colorado Spokesman, October 2003, 10. Bill Bish, “Coast to Coast Biker News: Senator Campbell Revs Up Attention to Small Motorcycle Businesses,” Masterlink, September 2003, 14. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, “Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell Before the Surface Transportation Subcommittee US House of Representatives Tuesday, May 4, 1993,” Easyriders, October 1993, 34-37, ed. Keith R. Ball. Zach Ratcheson, “Governor Tommy Thompson,” (Milwaukee) The Enthusiast, Fall 1998, 30. Don Young, “A Letter to SMROs from Congressman Don Young,” (Washington) MRF Reports, 13-6 (November / December 2003): 7. Cook, “AMA News and Notes: Louisiana,” 56. Kieffner, Participant observation and Participant reflection, 1982-2004. In many areas of Texas, for example, candidates for political office must include engagements at MRO meetings in their election campaigns and must seek biker support in order to have a reasonable chance of being elected.

[26]Tim Anderson, ed., “High Court Limits Police Questions,” Southwest Scooter News, April 2002, 1, 5.

[27]Randy Fishel, “HAMCM: A Show of Support,” Thunder Press, September 1998, 97.

[28]Ibid. Officer Smith, Interview. Parenti, Lockdown America.

[29]Thomas C. Wyld, “You Rode the Vote!” Masterlink, December 2000, 1. Mark Buckner, “Changing the Way Congress Thinks,” MRF Reports, 8-4 (July / August 1998): 3. “Helmeted Angels,” Economist 319-7707 (May 18, 1991): 31. Bill Bish, “Coast to Coast Biker News March 2000,” Internet. http://www.aimncom.com/mc_news/cst2cst/2000/cst2cst03_00.html. December 14, 2003. 1-5. Bob Babwin, “Putting a Lid on It,” Chicago Tribune, 19 April 1998 quoted in Terry Lee Cook, “The Politically Motivated Motorcyclist,” Masterlink, June 1998, 5. Kieffner, Participant observation and Participant reflection, 1982-2001.

[30]Davis Sheremata, “Hog Wild about Bike Gangs: Cash-Strapped Police are Creating a Scare to Get More Money, Says a Hells Angels Expert,” Alberta Report / Western Report, 28 July 1997, 24-28. The recurring, general pattern can be discerned by examining the contents of police community reports and published articles in chronological order. For example, CA AGO DJ, “Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Clubs.” Elliott, “The Wild Ones,” 25. Donovan, “The Wilder Ones,” 23B. Hedley Donovan, ed., “Mayhem on Motorcycles,” Time, 29 July 1966, 33. Osborn Elliott, ed., “Plight of the Cyclists,” Newsweek, 27 March 1967, 88-89. Robert Hughes, “Myth of the Motorcycle Hog,” Time, 8 February 1971, 74. CA DJ, “Profile of Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Membership.” Roger H. Davis, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Outlaw Motorcyclists: A Problem For Police,” Reprint from the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, October / November, 1982. 9 Pp. Ron Bertothy, “State Police Plead for Federal Help With Biker Gangs,” Organized Crime Digest, 4-2 (1983): 6-9. Phillip McGuire, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, “Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs: Organized Crime on Two Wheels,” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, 1987. Clyde H. Farnsworth, “Neighbors Live in Fear as Biker Gangs Rumble,” New York Times International, 20 May 1995, 2-L. A similar pattern involving J. Edgar Hoover is analyzed in James Gilbert, A Cycle of Outrage: America’s Reaction to the Juvenile Delinquent in the 1950s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).

[31]Sheremata, “Hog Wild,” 24-28.

[32]City of Scottsdale, Police Department, “Gang Activity in Scottsdale,” Internet, http://www.goodnet.com/~spdgang/gangsin.htm. 1998, 1. The police website in this upper-class, largely white city cites gang member demographics as follows: 90% male, 10% female, 37% Hispanic, 33%White, 13% Native American, 6% Black, and 1% Asian.

[33]Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. sec. 13-105, par. 8. “GITEM Gangs Up: Gang Squad Takes Bikers for a Ride,” Tiempo Times (March 14, 2001). Internet. http://www.tiempotimes.com/gitemsection.htm 1-2. City of Scottsdale, Gang Activity in Scottsdale, 1. In Arizona, the law is ambiguous and vague. A person must fit two out of seven listed criteria to be labeled a gang member. The first criterion is self-proclamation. Another criterion consists of one word: “tattoos.” Another of the seven criteria in the statute was equally ambiguous, another one-word description: “clothing.” The seventh criterion is a catch-all phrase: “Any other indicia of gang membership.”

[34]Parenti, Lockdown America. Black, Behavior of Law. Herivel, Prison Nation. Dyer, Perpetual Prisoner Machine.

[35]Don Phillips, “Big Brother in the Back Seat? The Advent of the ‘Intelligent Highway’ Spurs a Debate over Privacy,” Washington Post, 23 February 1995, D10-D11. Fred Rau, “Big Brother is Watching,” Colorado Spokesman, March 2004, 8.

[36]Potentially successful places to set up membership booths have included HOG rallies and other non-MRO events. The organizers often waive the booth fees for MROs.

[37]Texas Title 10 Sub. F Sec. 1701.253(e). Cable News Network, “CNN.com - Ashcroft Calls for Elimination,” 1-2. Amnesty International, “Political Profiling,” 1-4. Sahara Biker, “Shakedown,” 1-11. MrWizard, “Outsiders MC Web Portal,” 1-2.

[38]E-mail list servers moderated by MRO political volunteers are one quick, convenient, and effective method for acquiring consensus. Most politicians are highly impressed or more sympathetic when they discover that MRO lobbyists are volunteers who are not paid or reimbursed. They find this refreshing in an environment where most other lobbyists are paid by special interests. This voluntary aspect of the riders’ rights movement generally helps to secure legislative support.


Feel free to post your reactions to our web board and continue the conversation with other readers.

Login here: http://www.nova.edu/WWW BOARD/FAR/ijms_ferriss

The login is ijms

The password is vroom

(Please note that login and password are all lowercase.)

Images and text copyright © International Journal of Motorcycle Studies