It has been 19 days since the worst episode of “biker violence“ in the history of the United States.
There were no homicides at Hollister in 1947 or at two “motorcycle riots” in Riverside, California in the ensuing year. There were three homicides in Harrah’s Casino during the Laughlin Riot in 2002. There was one homicide in the Sparks Shootout in 2011. There were nine homicides in the Waco Massacre on May 17 and although the police might not have killed all nine or shot 17 more they have been acting like they did ever since.
Waco police immediately sealed the entire shopping center, the Central Texas Market Place, in which the homicides and other injuries occurred and kept it closed for 72 hours while all evidence and possible evidence – including an unknown number of private cars, trucks and motorcycles – was removed and hidden. Police spokesman W. Patrick Swanton immediately tried to panic the nation into blind acquiescence with a storyline that made Tom Laughlin’s The Born Losers look thoughtful and subtle.
One hundred seventy-six people were arrested with the probable cause that they were bikers so they probably caused the deaths and injuries. Effectively, small town officials in Waco were given carte blanche to ruin the lives of scores of completely innocent people.
Waco is not a murder story. Waco is first and foremost an example of how easily Americans can be denied fundamental human rights. Secondly, it illustrates how uninterested most of America is in the fundamental human rights of their fellow citizens. There is no national outcry over the falsely imprisoned. The President has not heard of it. Neither has Hillary Clinton.
It is particularly ironic that all this is happening so close to the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta which established the basic right of all the English speaking peoples of habeas corpus – which can be broadly defined to mean that a free man cannot be imprisoned without a formal statement of specifically what he did and to whom. Waco has repealed habeas corpus.
Yesterday, Waco also repealed the Texas Public Information Act which is intended to provide the public with basic information about police and other governmental affairs: Like for example, the unredacted front page of all police reports. Yesterday, 18 days after the massacre that sent the nation and most of the Western World into a panic, the Waco police released 19 random pages, including one mostly blank page, after repeated requests by local and national news media. In a formal request for the Texas Attorney General’s permission to break the law, an assistant Waco city attorney wrote, “The need to withhold the information pertaining to an open and pending case in order to deal with the detection, investigation, and/or prosecution of a crime is a compelling reason for nondisclosure.”
The world is fascinated by Waco. Jessica Chermayeff, a producer on the Lisa Ling television show This Is Life, has been chasing the human interest angle of Waco as sharks chase chum. “We were lucky enough to witness from afar Manny/Candyman’s funeral in Dallas and the incredible support shown for his family by hundreds and hundreds of bikers,” she confides. “I can honestly say that we were moved by this type of community. We met a Mongol and a Hells Angel that traveled all the way there and the experience energized us even further to try and pursue an in-depth perspective of life in a 1%er club today. We also learned just how badly they have been burned by the media, especially the news on CNN and others.” Ling, recently a regular on ABCs The View, wants to get “the Waco story right” by talking to motorcycle outlaws and their wives. It is, at least, a non-stereotypical take.
What the world is usually most fascinated by, what the world has always been fascinated by, is biker violence and biker freedom. “They inhabit a world in which violence is as common as spilled beer,” Hunter Thompson advised a half century ago.
Then there was Altamont. There was one homicide at Altamont and the world went nuts. It’s so interesting when people die.
People want to live through bikers because the world is ever less free, and social orthodoxy is ever more strict, and in the public imagination bikers get to do whatever they damn please. Simultaneously, millions of Walter Mittys want to pose on gleaming Harleys, break bottles over their boss’s heads, take women on pool tables and lock the Sons of Anarchy up and throw away the key.
“In 34 years of law enforcement, this is the worst crime scene, the most violent crime scene that I’ve ever been involved in,” Swanton said the day of the massacre. “Dead people are still there. There’s blood everywhere. We will probably approach the number of 100 weapons that we’ve recovered.”
The next week a thousand news outlets warned that bikers armed with “grenades and C4 explosives,” had ordered “hits” against “high-ranking law enforcement officials and their families.” Bikers were planning to detonate “car bombs” and “run over officers at traffic stops” The news outlets learned of the coming violence from the Texas Department of Public Safety which got its inside knowledge from a member of the “Black Widows motorcycle gang.”
Of course. How could all of that not be true? It is just the way so many frightened people imagine the world as we know it will end. That’s why Waco has been forced to destroy the law in order to preserve order. It is Waco’s inevitable destiny. Without heroes like Swanton and the rest of the Waco PD, bands of savage bikers may soon be roaming the desert wastelands in search of virgins and tasty young pets and children and spare parts and gasoline.
The horror! The horror! Exterminate all the brutes!