The Orwellian war against outlaw motorcycle clubs in the Australian state of Queensland continues to illustrate the fragility of democracy in the postmodern world.
Two demagogic politicians in Queensland, state premier Campbell Newman and his running dog Jarrod Bleijie, who is officially described as Queensland’s Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, enacted a complex of new laws last month by proclamation that are intended to obliterate the public menace some people think motorcycle clubs represent. Among other things, the new laws ban 26 named motorcycle clubs and declare numerous places off limits to people who have been secretly accused of being members or associates of the named clubs.
The new laws forbid bars and hotels from serving any members of the 26 clubs which now must be officially described as “criminal motorcycle gangs.”
The specifics of the hysterical new laws are rotten with inaccuracies. For example, one of the banned “criminal organizations” is the Scorpion Motorcycle Club which does not exist in Australia. Or, to cite another example, an industrial property in Caboolture, north of Brisbane, is officially a “proscribed place” because the property once held a transmission repair shop allegedly owned by a member of the Rebels Motorcycle Club although the property was sold to the present owner, who has nothing to do with motorcycles or motorcycle clubs, in 2006.
Last Friday, 20 members of the Queensland Police Services Taskforce Maxima raided a party thrown by the Vietnam and Veterans Motorcycle Club in Kingston near Brisbane. The club is comprised mostly of Australian Vietnam Vets. The club was raided because it has long-standing social ties with several outlawed clubs including the Rebels, Odins Warriors and Life and Death Motorcycle Clubs.
A spokesman for the VVMC told ABC that the clubhouse was “neutral ground” but that “We see them (members of the banned clubs), we ride with them, we go on some of their rides with them and they go on some of our rides with us. Whatever they do is up to them. We don’t ask them what they get up to when they’re out of here.”
Police raided the party looking for indicia connected to any of the banned clubs. The VVMC clubhouse and its liquor license could have been seized if any of the guests had been wearing anything police interpret as indicative of membership in a banned club.
After the raid, Taskforce Maxima issued a press release that described the raid as “part of a strategy to develop a rapport with legitimate members of the motorcycle riding community in the interest of effective policing.” It also said the raid was intended to ensure “that criminal motorcycle gang members do not attempt to infiltrate legitimate motorcycle clubs such as the Vietnam and Veterans Motorcycle Club.”
Queensland politicians and police have also told members of the Australian Motorcycle Council that motorcycle groups, such as the Harley Owner’s Group, should notify police before taking group rides.
Eva Cripps, a spokeswoman for the AMC there had been a “huge escalation” in the number of motorcycle riders being stopped, searched and harassed by police. “Police say they know who the (banned club) members are,” she told the Brisbane Times, “yet they find it difficult to identify them because they don’t wear their colors any more. The only option is to pull over all riders.”
Cripps told the Times the AMC opposed the idea of notifying police in advance of planned rides but that some clubs might acquiesce to police demands. “The clubs will let the police know what they’re doing to stop the harassment,” she said. “We’re quite concerned about the fact that people riding a legal form of transport have to report into police to stop themselves being harassed.”
David Laarhoven, a spokesman for HOG in the neighboring Australian state of New South Wales told ABC he thought the new laws were “draconian.”
“If we were to ride into Queensland as the Harley Owners Group,” Laarhoven asked rhetorically, “and we’ve got our nice leather vests on with the Harley Eagle on the back, will we be pulled over if we’re on a charity ride? Do we need to alert these authorities too, and how do they differentiate between us and other motorcycle clubs?”