The next biker civil rights case has been brewing for a little over a month in Rochester, Minnesota where the local police and a city attorney named Terry Adkins have pooled their experience and training and declared the Sons of Silence and the Med City Crew Motorcycle Clubs to be “criminal gangs.”
The declaration violates a Minnesota State Law which specifically forbids discrimination against club members who are flying colors. The law is Minnesota Statute 604.12 which states that access to public establishments cannot be denied to “a person who operates a motorcycle or is wearing clothing that displays the name of an organization or association,” unless that person’s behavior is endangering other people or property, or his clothing “is obscene or includes the name or symbol of a criminal gang.”
The legal dispute may eventually determine whether it is reasonable to call the two clubs “criminal gangs.”
Social Scientists have been trying to accurately define the vague term “gang” since the juvenile delinquency panic in the 1950s. Most sociologists agree that “gangs” are social organizations that exist to serve the social needs of individuals who feel marginalized by society.
California, which was a pioneer in formalized name calling, uses the even vaguer term “criminal street gang” to create separate laws for people the police don’t like. “Criminal Street Gang” is defined under California law as “any organization, association or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, which (1) has continuity of purpose, (2) seeks a group identity, and (3) has members who individually or collectively engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal activity.”
Most rational and educated persons understand that the California definition is logically circular. It also uses the same logic that is applied in the federal judiciary to define the equally vague idea of a “racketeering enterprise.” The federal notion is that if some members of a social group are criminals then all members of that group must also be criminal. In the federal Central District of California, the premise of a case called USA v. Mongol Nation, an Unincorporated Association, is that since, as recently as five years ago, some members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club were criminals that entire social organization must be a criminal racket. It is a naked accusation against which all members of the Mongols must now defend themselves.
The Minnesota law that defines “criminal gangs” closely follows the current interpretation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act which defines a “pattern of racketeering activity” as two or more criminal acts committed by three or more persons during the previous decade.
The current dispute in Rochester began when Michael Bader, an attorney representing the Confederation of Clubs of Minnesota, accused Rochester police of telling bar and restaurant owners to deny service to members of the two clubs. Bader wrote City Attorney Adkins a letter telling him that the two local chapters do not have a history of violence and asked him to enforce Minnesota Statute 604.12.
Adkins wrote Bader back three weeks later and told him “The Rochester Police Department tells me that the Sons of Silence is a motorcycle criminal gang with a common name whose members wear clothing containing an identifying sign/symbol.” He quoted a Department of Justice memo which defines the Sons of Silence as “an organization whose members use their motorcycle club as a conduit for criminal enterprises.” And he cited five criminal convictions involving Sons patch holders in Rochester and St. Cloud, Minnesota, and in Iowa and Colorado between 1999 and 2013.
Adkins wrote, “As such, I have concluded that the Sons of Silence is a ‘criminal gang’ as that term is defined by Minnesota Statute 609.229, subdivision 1.”
Members of the Med City Crew will also continue to be banned because they belong to a motorcycle club that maintains cordial and friendly relations with the Sons.
The next step will be litigation.