This is part two of a primer on the major motorcycle clubs currently operating in the United States…
The Sons of Silence
The Sons of Silence was founded in Colorado in 1966 and claims a number of charters in the eastern U.S. and several chapters throughout Germany.
The club’s motto, “Donec Mors Non Seperat,” is Latin for “Until Death Separates Us.”
Nearly forty members of the Sons of Silence were arrested on drug trafficking and illegal weapons charges in Denver back in 1999 during a huge federal undercover operation which led to the ATF seized twenty pounds of methamphetamine, 35 weapons. Among those weapons? Four hand grenades, a pair of silencers, cash and stolen motorcycles.
Taking the insignia on Marlon Brando’s leather jacket from the movie The Wild One as inspiration, the club sports an insignia which features a skull with crossed pistons as their official club patch and colors. The gang was formed at Matilda’s Bar on what was once Route 66 in McCook, IL, a suburb of Chicago,in 1935. Photographer and historian Danny Lyon was once a member of the Outlaws while he was working on his photography book, The Bikeriders. The club claims chapters in various parts of the United States, Australia, Asia, Europe and South America.
Harry Joseph Bowman, served as the international president of The Outlaws Motorcycle Club as the head of some 30 chapters in the U.S. and 20 chapters in 4 other countries until he was imprisoned for three murders. Bowman was on the F.B.I’s Top 10 Most Wanted Fugitive list for nearly a year between 1998 and 1999.
Various current and former members of The Outlaws have been either suspected of, or convicted of, crimes related to prostitution, drug trafficking, possessing stolen goods, dealing weapons, extortion schemes and murders.
Originally begun in Maryland in 1959,the club’s territory is confined mostly to the east coast.
Known primarily for an ongoing and ulta-violent rivalry with the Hell’s Angels, The Pagans have been suspected of murder, arson and drug smuggling. Various members of the group have been connected to organized crime families in the northeastern United States.
Back in 2002, seventy-three members of The Pagans were arrested in Long Island, NY after being accused of inciting the violence which exploded at a motorcycle and tattoo ball where the group’s members confronted members of The Hell’s Angels. When the smoke cleared, ten bikers lay wounded and one Pagan had been murdered. Three years later, members of The Pagans were said to have shot and killed the Vice-President of the Philadelphia Chapter of The Hell’s Angels.
When a group of Hispanic bikers were refused entry into The Hell’s Angels MC due to their race, they instead formed their own group, The Mongols. Known variously as Mongol Nation or the Mongol Brotherhood, the group came into being during 1969 in Montebello, California.
Mongol chapters are located mostly in the western United States, but charters also exist in Canada, Mexico and Italy. The group recently won a court battle with Federal authorities seeking to prevent the group from using their insignia and logo.
An ATF-coordinated a sting operation launched against The Mongols spearheaded by four undercover agents resulted in nearly forty arrests – a number which included the club’s president, Ruben “Doc” Cavazos. More than one hundred search warrants were carried out which netted drugs, weapons and stolen goods.
The Hell’s Angels
Easily the most well known – and notorious – American biker gang, The Hell’s Angels have entered American lore as the iconic “motorcycle gang.” A strict and long-standing code of secrecy has prevented much information about the group from filtering out to the general public, but it is thought that some time during the late 1940’s or early 1950’s in California near San Bernadino, the club was formed. The Hell’s Angels “death’s head” logo was taken from one created for the 85th Fighter Squadron and the 552nd Medium Bomber Squadron during WWII.
Due mostly to their place in popular culture and ill-fame as a result of being featured as the main subject matter of the Hunter S Thompson book , Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, that Hell’s Angels chapters now exist across the Untied States, Russia, New Zealand, South America, Europe and Australia.
The group’s public image was forever etched in the American psyche when, during the Altamont Free Concert at Altamont Speedway in December of 1969, members of the group hired by the rock and roll band The Rolling Stones either incited, or tried to quell, a disturbance in the crowd. The incident ended with one man being stabbed to death after allegedly brandishing a pistol at club members.
The Angels were also involved in a well-publicized fracas inside Harrah’s Casino and Hotel in Nevada when a confrontation in the casino between members of the Mongols MC and Angels exploded into violence and gunfire which resulted in the stabbing death of a Mongol and the shooting death of two Hell’s Angels members.