Monthly Archives: October 2019

Texas Bikers Stop VFW’s No MC Colors Policy

By David “Double D” Devereaux

The National Council of Clubs, representing the interests of motorcycle clubs and thousands of their members in every state in America, is both concerned and appalled at recent reports of Veterans organizations, including some VFW, American Legion, and Eagles posts, among others, denying access to individuals expressing membership in motorcycle clubs.

So what’s the solution? The Texas Council of Clubs & Independents recent campaign in response to a policy of discrimination announced by the state VFW serves as an example of a successful strategy for others facing similar acts of discrimination by private Veterans organizations in their states.

Texas VFW General Orders of discrimination

Dated October 2019, the Department of Texas VFW sent General Orders to all VFW Posts throughout the state outlining a new written policy which includes a provision excluding all 1% MC members, employing gang labeling, from VFW events and property.

The TCOC&I quickly became aware of the General Orders through local VFW posts in numerous areas of the state and immediately began a campaign responding to the new policy of discrimination. Motorcycle clubs have a long history of having events at VFW posts, many motorcyclists are members, and relationships are strong in many places in Texas, as they are throughout America.

TCOC&I uses social media to apply pressure

Representatives of the TCOC&I began spreading the VFW letter through social media channels. Thousands in Texas and across the country became aware. On October 9th, a direct response from the TCOC&I in the form of a formal letter was sent to the Texas VFW outlining the community’s request that the policy be reversed. The TCOC&I emphasized the historical ties between the MC community and VFW’s throughout Texas. 38% of the club community are Veterans, more than five times the national average. MC meetings, benefits, and social events are a common occurrence.

According to a TCOC&I representative, this letter resulted in a meeting between representatives of both the Texas VFW and TCOC&I, including the local Austin VFW President. On Saturday, October 12, 2019, the TCOC&I emphasized the importance of not allowing the actions of the few influence how the VFW regards all motorcycle clubs, including 1%’ERS, and how they are treated. The TCOC&I also made a formal request for written explanation of the specifics that led to the General Orders and confirmation of a policy reversal. VFW representatives committed to bringing the TCOC&I’s concerns to Keith King, Texas VFW State Commander.

The Texas VFW reverses policy of discrimination

On October 22, 2019 Paul Landers, representing the TCOC&I, reached out to the Texas VFW for an update or statement following the October 12 meeting. Landers was notified that King would meet the following day to personally discuss the General Orders at Issue.

After meeting on October 23 the VFW State Commander opened his mind and listened, according to. Landers.

“King explained that the policy was due to publicized incidents of violence and 1% MC’s in Texas. But after listening to our perspective he changed his perspective. The actions of the few should not impact the rights of the whole. King agreed to a written policy change that does NOT exclude MC’s and 1% clubs from VFW property”, says Landers.

The Texas VFW Commander King writes, “The Texas VFW leadership met with representatives of the Texas Council of Clubs & Independents about General Order #2 issued October 2019 and received input from them that further clarification was requested to separate “Gangs” from MC’s. Motorcycle Clubs are Not Street Gangs. This was a very informative meeting with all attending sharing valuable information concerning the groups

We all agreed that our organizations did many good things for the communities in their areas. We all agreed that respect for one another is vital. As the original General Order stated, posts will have the right to permit the groups they have good working relationships with on their property. Notice that this means they will have the right to wear their patch as well if the post allows it. We all agreed to police ourselves. We believe that by working together we can strengthen our community involvement as many riders are in fact veterans themselves.

We hope this clears up the situation concerning motorcycle groups and the VFW in Texas.”

A model response to discrimination

The TCOC&I serves as a model example on how to respond to Veteran organization discrimination against the motorcycling community.

First, social media channels were flooded with the VFW’s General Orders in order to increase awareness and generate independent complaint streams. The more individuals that reach out and complain means the more leverage an official complaint will have.

Second, an official complaint and request for policy reversal was drafted and sent to the Texas VFW. The complaint outlined the close connection between MC’s and Veterans and argued the VFW is profiling and discriminating against the very people they exist to serve.

Third, meetings were arranged with VFW representatives in order to resolve the issue. Capable spokespersons persuaded the VFW to not punish all MC members for the actions of the few. The final result was a reversing a discriminatory policy.

The entire TCOC&I campaign was implemented and completed within days of the original letter being sent by the VFW. The campaign was cost-free and 100% relied upon active volunteer participation.

Conclusions

The shortsighted policy of excluding MC’s from Veteran’s organizations is appalling and unacceptable. Many in the MC community are loyal veterans, and Americans, and should not be the target of discrimination at home, particularly at the hands of other Veterans.

The TCOC&I blueprint can be modeled and implemented anywhere, in any state. No need to recreate the wheel.

Silence is consent.

The post Texas Bikers Stop VFW’s No MC Colors Policy appeared first on Motorcycle Profiling Project.

Source:: Texas Bikers Stop VFW’s No MC Colors Policy

Why Motorcycle Clubs Are Not Gangs

By David “Double D” Devereaux

There has been a one-sided war going on between law enforcement and motorcycle clubs for many years. This war is not a literal physical conflict in the traditional sense, but rather a war of words most often played out in the media and courtrooms across America. A war over public perception. And there is no better example than government authorities and the media applying the term “gang” to vilify and persecute motorcycle clubs and their members.

The National Council of Clubs (NCOC), representing the interests of motorcycle clubs and thousands of their members nationwide, is adamantly opposed to using the term “gang” to describe motorcycle clubs. The NCOC requests that media outlets and public officials immediately discontinue the practice.

  • Gang labeling results in Selective Enforcement of the law and profiling, tangibly impacting civil liberties. Motorcycle clubs are First Amendment protected associations and most clubs and members are living examples of expressive conduct, as demonstrated by an irrefutable dedication to charitable causes and political
  • The only statistical and demographic data available invalidates the “gang” label. 87% of MC members vote and are politically active, 73% are employed, 98% have no felony record, and 38% have served in the US military.
  • Just as the highly publicized criminal actions of a few officers does not mean all cops are corrupt, the criminal acts of the few do not justify applying the term “gang” to all members of a motorcycle club. That would amount to guilt by

Gang labeling and civil liberties

Gang and gang member defined

The term “gang” in the legislative or legal arena has a much more specific definition than in media circles and even law enforcement. In the legal context, the Due Process Clause and the 1st Amendment require that an individual be directly connected to criminal activity of the alleged gang before they are considered a gang member. This is a more stringent standard than the mere “membership in an organization” standard that the media uses for reporting and that law enforcement uses for inclusion into a gang database, for example.

In fact, when prosecuting a member of an alleged gang, evidence of criminal wrongdoing by other members of an organization that don’t involve the defendant are properly excluded by the Federal Rules of Evidence because such evidence is cumulative and unduly prejudicial. This interpretation of the term “gang” or “gang member” is consistent with the First Amendment to the US Constitution. On the other hand, targeting an individual based on the “gang” label for mere membership in any organization is unconstitutional.

It’s a matter of semantics with tangible implications. Being put into a gang database does not mean that an individual is considered a gang member by statute because gang databases are intended only for investigation, not as evidence. So, a direct connection to criminal activity is not required before entering and individual into a gang database. The problem occurs when law enforcement makes a gang member determination based on the mere membership standard when enforcing statutes that legally require a direct connection to gang crimes.

Gangs, Due Process, and the First Amendment

Motorcycle clubs are First Amendment protected associations. Restrictions solely based on association in a motorcycle club violate the First Amendment. There is “no evidence that by merely wearing [motorcycle club] “colors,” an individual is “involved in or associated with the alleged violent or criminal activity of other [motorcycle club] members. It is a fundamental principle that the government may not impose restrictions on an individual “merely because an individual belong[s] to a group, some members of which committed acts of violence.” In fact, the Supreme Court has long “disapproved governmental action. denying rights and privileges solely because of a citizen’s association with an unpopular organization.” Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169, 185-86 (1972). To impose restrictions on any person “who wears the insignia of [motorcycle club], without regard to or knowledge of that individual’s specific intent to engage in the alleged violent activities committed by other members, is antithetical to the basic principles enshrined in the First Amendment and repugnant to the fundamental doctrine of personal guilt that is a hallmark of American jurisprudence.” see Coles v. Carlini 162 F.Supp.3d 380 (2015)

Gang labeling, Selective Enforcement, and profiling

This war of words and the perceptions they create are currently a determining factor shaping the future of motorcycle club culture because words have tangible impacts. In fact, the gang label has caused some law enforcement to unconstitutionally use membership in a motorcycle club as probable cause or reasonable suspicion for investigation or arrest without any particularized or specific justification. The recently common practice in some states of targeting and arresting members of clubs for possessing legal firearms based solely on alleged gang associations is another alarming example.

Statistical/demographic data says MC’s are not gangs

The 2016-2019 National Motorcycle Profiling Surveys (NMPS) demonstrate that members of motorcycle clubs simply do not fit the demographic profile of gangs or gang members. The NMPS, the only statistical attempt to quantify the motorcycle profiling epidemic in America, is an extremely reliable data set, with 99% reliability and a 1.4% margin of error.

MC members are employed- most gang members are not

Academic and government studies have long established that gang members are “less likely to be employed and more likely to not participate in the labor force.” (For an example see https:// www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/239241.pdf )

According to the NMPS, 73% of survey participants are employed, 68% of them on a full-time basis. Only 3% of the community is unemployed, and many of them are actively seeking employment. Interestingly, nearly 17% of survey participants are retired.

Employment demographics in motorcycle club culture are simply not consistent with gang membership or the broadly applied gang label by law enforcement or the news and entertainment media.

Although far less sensational than Sons of Anarchy or Gangland, the reality is that most members of motorcycle clubs, including 1% clubs, wake up in the morning, put their boots on, and go to work.

Most MC members are politically active- 87% vote

Political activism is protected expressive conduct under the First Amendment, not gang activity. Motorcycle clubs and their members are a very politically active constituency. and participate in the democratic process.

NMPS data establishes that 87% of motorcyclists voted in the 2016 presidential elections and that 86% voted in national elections over the last decade. This equates to millions of votes. The US DOT estimates that there are 8.6 million motorcyclists in the United States.

38% of MC members are Vets- This should be honored

According to the NMPS, 38% of survey participants were Veterans of the US Military. Such a large percentage of veterans politically active post their service is simply not indicative of gang membership. Instead of being vilified, the NCOC believes that these Veterans should be celebrated and appreciated for their sacrifices and service.

98.8% of MC members have no felony record

Statistically dissolving the stereotype law enforcement and the media attempt to sell regarding motorcycle clubs, only 1.17% of members of motorcycle clubs are convicted felons. That percentage is extremely low in such a large demographic, yet the gang label persists. News and entertainment media continue to sensationalize MC culture.

Individuals should not be labeled gang members merely because they are members of a motorcycle club, even a club in which some members have been convicted of criminal activity. Employing that standard would mean that every member of law enforcement and every US and State legislator would be criminals based on the actions of the few.

Consider law enforcement. All officers should not be condemned for the actions of the few, despite the fact that crimes committed by many officers have been well documented.

(Some even suggest more officers commit crimes than motorcycle club members. Consider recent statistics published by USA Today (April 26 & May 23, 2019) revealing the 85,000 officers investigated for misconduct nationwide, or the 30,000 officers banned from law enforcement in one state, only to become officers in another.)

Final Thoughts

The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects an individual’s right to associate with whomever they choose and express that association free from government discrimination or persecution.

Although the gang label is a convenient way to characterize and vilify thousands of people simultaneously, the only statistical data in existence suggests that the gang label as applied to motorcycle clubs is highly inaccurate.

The NCOC strongly asserts that 87% of actual gang members did NOT vote in the 2016 presidential elections, that 73% of actual gang members are not employed, and that in actual gangs, far more than 1.17% of the members are convicted felons.

Simply put, motorcycle clubs are not gangs.

National Council of Clubs media@councilofclubs.org.

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Source:: Why Motorcycle Clubs Are Not Gangs