Discrimination against motorcycle clubs is well documented and irrefutable. Incidents of criminal activity are sensationalized and used to mischaracterize an entire class of people based on stereotype and appearance. It seems that no motorcycle club is immune. Not even those dedicated to the service and protection of abused children. Indeed, from Waco to New Mexico motorcycle organizations dedicated to the protection of children have been the victim of motorcycle discrimination and denied basic civil liberties solely because of expressing their associations.
In New Mexico, the Guardians of Children were denied entrance into the Bernalillo County Courthouse unless they turned inside out or removed anything expressing association with motorcycle affiliation.
In Waco, a member of the Grim Guardians was targeted and arrested for no other reason than their association with a motorcycle club. The Huffington Post reported December 13th that Patrick Jim Harris “is a proud member of the Grim Guardian’s Motorcycle Club, an M.C. whose associates include active clergymen. His club’s mission is to serve abused and foster children.”
So far, not exactly the picture of a classic organized criminal, right? So how did Patrick, along with close to 200 innocent bikers, get caught-up in this nightmare?
In Patrick’s situation, here’s what occurred: Arriving at Twin Peaks to attend the meeting, he was swept-up in the mass arrest. Eventually, along with several others, he was released on bond.
These individuals committed no crimes and are dedicated community servants.
Law enforcement decisions should be based on behavior, not appearance. Agents of the government, particularly law enforcement, are prohibited from targeting or discriminating against individuals based on appearance. All motorcycle clubs should be free from discrimination. The absurdity of treating those dedicated to protecting abused kids like criminals magnifies exactly why.
There is a long list of federal and Supreme Court precedent establishing 1st Amendment protection for motorcycle club associations and colors against government discrimination.
- The Supreme Court says that individuals have the 1st Amendment right to wear clothing which displays writing or designs. In 1971, the Supreme Court concluded that a shirt reading “F*#K THE DRAFT was protected expression. See Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).
- The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals says that wearing of motorcycle club colors in a courthouse building is protected speech under the First Amendment, and gang labeling does not overwhelm this right. See Sammartano v. First Judicial District Court, 303 F.3d 959 (9th Cir.2002).
- A recent federal decision agrees. “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) (See Coles v. Carlini, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, Civil No. 10-6132, Opinion, 9/30/2015, p.28)
These incidents demonstrate how the outlaw biker stereotype is so overly-broad that it encompasses almost all motorcycle clubs, even those dedicated to protecting the abused or neglected. Things have gone too far when a group called The Guardians of the Children, a non profit organization of child advocates comprised of motorcyclists, are denied access to the courthouse unless they remove their motorcycle jackets. These are not gang members, they’re community servants.