As of last Wednesday, May 28, it is a crime to wear or display the name “Hells Angels” or the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club’s death head logo in Berlin, Germany. The ban applies to vests, tee shirts, support tee shirts, motorcycles, buildings and other horizontal and vertical surfaces. Members and supporters of the motorcycle club will have a month to implement the ban.
The new crime is based on a decision by the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court of Hamburg on April 7. Hamburg banned its local Hells Angels charter in 1983. The April court decision banned the Angels’ indicia on the grounds that it was a violation of Germany’s law against the public display of symbols associated with banned organizations. The original intent of the German law was to ban the display of Nazi symbols like swastikas and lightening bolts.
Indicia In A Nutshell
Indicia is a widely used term in American law. The Latin word was originally used to describe prima facie evidence in disputes over ownership of tangible property: As when a brand on livestock could be offered as proof of ownership of those animals. In the last 20 years, the concept of indicia has been corrupted to mean proof of membership. In the United States, for example, the most common implementations of extra judicial punishment are “indicia searches” carried out by paramilitary police against known members of motorcycle clubs. In those searches police serve a warrant to search for proof of what they already know and then use the putatively legal search to terrorize families, execute pets and wreck homes. The “searches” are usually carried out in the darkest hour before dawn.
The Berlin ban is something new again. It represents the latest tactic in the global war on motorcycle clubs which is a corruption of the global war on terror. Australia has banned the display of indicia of 25 proscribed clubs under most circumstances. In the United States, the Department of Justice has carried out a six-year-long campaign to seize indicia associated with the Mongols Motorcycle Club.
German Interior Senator Frank Henkel told the Berliner Morgenpost, “This is a good and powerful decision by the Berlin public prosecutor. The prohibition falls within the zero tolerance strategy we pursue in the fight against criminal groups. Police will consistently punish violations after the deadline.”
André Schulz, head of the Federal German Police, told the Morgenpost, “The prohibitions must also be extended to other criminal groups such as the Bandidos, Outlaws and their numerous support clubs. The Federal German Police demand a Germany-wide ban.”
A Berlin police spokesman named Thomas Neuendorf said, “From July 1, the public display of (the forbidden) symbols and the lettering will be punished.” He said he expects about 400 bikers to be effected by the ban.