At least a thousand members of saloon society attended the “Save the Patch” rally at a Mongols friendly bar called The House Lounge Saturday.
The rally was both a publicity event and a fundraiser. The proceeds will help the Mongols Motorcycle Club pay the cost of defending a landmark legal case. The points of that case, titled USA v. Mongol Nation, an Unincorporated Association, is to outlaw a lawful group with the aid of propaganda and to criminalize the previously legal act of belonging to a motorcycle club. Mongols Nation, which attorney Joe Yanny thinks is likely to be ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, has been almost completely ignored by the world’s press.
Two reporters made the trek to the House Lounge. One guy wore an Aging Rebel tee-shirt. The other, whose name is Brian Day, wore a press pass from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, which is the only news outlet in Los Angeles that has even tried to report on the Mongols with any semblance of professionalism since Operation Black Rain was announced in October 2008. You can read Day’s take on the rally here.
The Hells Angels and the universe of clubs that support them were conspicuous by their absence. Los Angeles was unique in the world of motorcycle clubs for years. There are several one percenter clubs in the City of Angels. Three of them are big, tough clubs that would have been solely preeminent almost anywhere else in the world up until about a decade ago – the Mongols, the Vagos and the Hells Angels.
And it is hardly betraying a confidence to state in writing that the Vagos and Mongols have arranged a détente in the motorcycle world and that the Hells Angels remain proudly aloof from that. Nor is there a cop anywhere within ten thousand miles of Steve Cook, the biker authority in Kansas, who does not know that there was a bloody incident on the 15 Freeway south and west of El Lay on March 22, a week before the rally, that involved two well known Los Angeles area clubs. So neither the Angels nor any of the clubs that must get along with the Hells Angels made an appearance at the rally. Interestingly, the 1Down MC, which is mostly African-American, was there.
Anyone who knows anything about outlaw clubs or how those clubs actually work or who understands the single, expressionless face that all clubs must show to outsiders can imagine that as many as four or five Angels out of ten sympathize and identify with the Mongols’ legal dilemma. But that is simply not how the Hells Angels as a whole relate to the outside world. So in the coming battles over what fraternal organizations Americans will be allowed to join the Angels will probably stand alone.
The House Lounge was packed with patches. There was just enough room for guys to hug. It was a daytime, friendly event attended by many women. At any time hundreds of Vagos, Mongols, Carnales, Silent Natives, Aztec Riders, Vietnam Vets and Pacific Savagez spilled out into the street.
The steak sandwiches were good, the music was loud, the beer was cold. Dave Santillan who is not afraid to be known as the President of the Mongols gave a pleasant speech about the importance of the cause.
Increasingly, there is only one biker party. What differentiates these events from one other is their subtext. The subtext of this party was a well known train of logic which goes like this: If faceless and mostly anonymous government employees can do this the Mongols they can do it to any motorcycle club including the Hells Angels. If this can happen to motorcycle clubs it can happen to the Ku Klux Klan, PETA and the Tea Party. And after that the government will find a way to impose its will on the Catholics, the Jews, the Methodists and the Boy Scouts.
The subtext was why the party at the House Lounge mattered. To belong to a motorcycle club is first and foremost a way of being a man. Men don’t have to stand tall but every once in a while they do have to stand up. And, every once in a while a man does have to draw or cross a line in the sand. The Mongols and the Vagos just drew a line.