Motorcycle gangs

2010-09-12T00:00:00Z Motorcycle gangsLee Newspapers La Crosse Tribune
September 12, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Hells Angels Motorcycle Club

The Hells Angels are synonymous with outlaw biker gangs. They have the fame, the notoriety, and nationwide, the numbers.

The group was immortalized by Hunter S. Thompson in his 1966 book, "Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs," but the Hells Angels' origins started nearly two decades before.

Begun in San Bernardino, Calif., in 1948, the club is now an international organization. While members insist the group is simply a collection of motorcycle enthusiasts, law enforcement considers them a violent criminal syndicate.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, members must be men, over the age of 21 and must own a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

It's "colors" - patches carrying a motorcycle club's insignia and name - consist of a helmeted, winged skull with the letters "MC" under the wings. The words "Hells Angels" are written above and the chapter below, both with red writing on a white patch.

The Justice Department estimates more than 230 Hells Angels chapters exist in the U.S. and in dozens of other countries. In particular, the club holds a heavy presence in Canada, with nearly four times as many chapters in the country than its biggest rival, the Outlaws, according to the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada.

Officials estimate full-patch membership in the thousands. But locally, the group's ranks appear thin.

Hells Angels consider Minnesota their territory, with a chapter in Minneapolis. Yet only about a dozen members belong to the local chapter, according to ATF sources.

American Outlaws Association

The Outlaws are the chief motorcycle club rivals of the Hells Angels.

The group's colors include a skull and two pistons set like crossbones. "Outlaws" is written above; the "MC" rests by the skull, and the chapter is identified below.

The Outlaws were formed in 1935 in McCook, Ill. Largely disbanded during World War II, the group reformed in 1946 and expanded rapidly in the Chicago area. Over time, the group has grown to become one of the major outlaw motorcycle clubs in the country.

Like their "one-percenter" rivals the Hells Angels, the Outlaws are a violent, organized crime gang, according to police. More than two-dozen members of the club were arrested in June after a Virginia grand jury indicted them on federal charges. As part of the operation, federal agents raided the Outlaws' clubhouse in Milwaukee.

The Outlaws, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, are the "dominant (outlaw motorcycle gang) in the Great Lakes region." The group has seven chapters in Wisconsin, including one in La Crosse, and the ATF estimates about 60 full-patched members live in the state.

The Justice Department reports more than 1,700 Outlaws belong to about 175 U.S. and foreign chapters.

They consider other major outlaw motorcycle clubs allies, including the Mongols and Bandidos, and the Black Pistons Motorcycle Club serves as a support club. Two suspected members of the Black Pistons wanted for a triple-homicide in Florida were arrested last week in Whitewater State Park.

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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