Chairman Mao claimed war has three stages. “Operation Everywhere,” the war on the Vagos Motorcycle Club in Southern California, has now entered stage two – cyberbullying.
The Vagos antagonists in this conflict are gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and incumbent Riverside County Prosecutor candidate Rod Pacheco. Cyberbullying is usually defined as harassment inflicted through digital communication.
On March 17th, Pacheco announced a series of “raids” on “94 locations in four states” connected to a “crackdown” on the Vagos. The Vagos were cracked down on, Pacheco wanted everyone to think – and everyone did – because the motorcycle club was responsible for four alleged “terrorist” attacks on peace officers in Hemet, California.
Pacheco is too greasy to actually accuse the Vagos of murderous vandalism. Instead he called the club, “an extreme threat for law enforcement.”
But, the first four paragraphs in a news story about the raids, written by a dispassionate British journalist named Guy Adams, filed in Los Angeles and run in the London Independent, illustrates exactly the message Pacheco was sending:
“Thirty members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club have been arrested following allegations that they have tried to booby trap a police gang enforcement unit,” Adams began.
“The FBI calls it ‘a ruthless criminal organization’ which deals in ‘guns, drugs, and death.’ The Justice Department holds members responsible for ‘assault, extortion, insurance fraud, money-laundering, murder, vehicle theft, witness intimidation and weapons violations.’ But it turns out that one of America’s most notorious biker gangs is also pretty handy at DIY.
“Police in California have arrested 30 members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club, a group of 300 Harley-Davidson riders, amid allegations that they have been attempting to use home-made booby traps to maim and kill the detectives who keep an eye on their nefarious daily activities.
“In recent weeks, a series of potentially deadly devices, built largely from materials bought at local hardware stores, were discovered at the homes and workplaces of a police gang-enforcement unit in Hemet, a suburban town in Riverside County, on the eastern fringes of Los Angeles. The Vagos gang, also known as ‘The Green Nation,’ is suspected of planting them.”
Jerry Brown, in whose press office much of this wonderfully exciting tale was imagined, came to Hemet the next day and made a speech about “urban terrorism.” Brown implied that the Vagos, who have chapters in Mexico, were importing narco-terrorism into the United States.
All of this fits a hackneyed political formula: Invent a threat; promise that only you can protect the people from that threat; claim victory when no one else can find the threat that only you are “tough enough” to find and defeat.
Some skeptics complained that Pacheco’s tale shone and stunk like a mackerel in moonlight. Over the next few days, even the Hemet police backed away from blaming the Vagos for the nasty pranks that precipitated the raids and the press conferences. Within days, Fox News was citing “sources” that the Vagos probably did not do anything after all.
Joseph Yanny, an attorney retained by the motorcycle club, told reporters, “The Vagos are an easy target because they ride motorcycles and authorities love to hate them. This is for the personal political gain of Governor Moonbeam (Jerry Brown), who is behind in the polls and playing this game to get his name in the press at the expense of decent men.”
Harry ‘Doc’ Hart, a Hemet dentist and a respectfully regarded member of the club, said that local authorities, “demonize us and start locking everyone up left and right. In their eyes, everyone’s a criminal.”
Yesterday, Robert J. Lopez of the Los Angeles Times reported that only 14 of the 33 men who were arrested during Operation Everywhere had actually been charged with a crime. Lopez was not able to establish any connection between the reasons reported for the raid and any of the charges. All of the charges seem to be incidental to the law enforcement opportunities that arise when cops are encouraged to just go into somebody’s house and turn everything upside down.
According to Lopez, two members of the club were arrested for possession of drugs and have already pled guilty. So far, not even Pacheco has claimed that the Vagos are responsible for the recreational use of banned drugs in California.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
But yesterday the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office continued to insist that Operation Everywhere was somehow about public safety instead of about winning votes for a couple of unprincipled politicians.
John Hall, a spokesman for Pacheco told Lopez that prosecutors were “still reviewing” cases against the Vagos. One case, typical of those still under review, involves the difficult decision of whether to charge a Vago who was discovered to be in possession of a “club.” Hall also described the lack of charges as strategic. “There is no rush to file charges,” Lopez explained, “because the defendants are not in jail, which would have forced prosecutors to file charges quicker.”
“They (the Vagos) need to know we are keeping an eye on them,” Hall told Lopez. “Part of the message we are trying to send is to let them know we know they are out there.”
Everybody knows that officials in Riverside County intend to send a message. Everybody has known that all along. The real questions are how to characterize that message and to whom is it being sent and why?