Within hours of the tragedy in Waco law enforcement incorrectly reported that the gathering at Twin Peaks was a gang meeting intended to discuss issues over recruitment and turf. This is simply not the truth. At best it is false statement based on sloppy and irresponsible conjecture and research. At worst, it is a lie that was used to justify arresting 177 bikers, charging them with participating in organized crime, and giving them each $1 million dollar bonds.
This mischaracterization was also used to describe and treat bikers showing up in Waco after the incident as a threat. Responsible reporting would have revealed that the meeting was supposed to start at 1pm and the shooting incident occurred at approximately 12:15. So there was a reason hundreds of motorcyclists were heading to Waco. Motorcyclists were on their way to attend a regional political gathering, not participate in a gang war. The mainstream media embraced this description and helped spread these irresponsible assertions.
The general fear being promoted based on these irresponsibly false statements must not go unanswered. They must be refuted logically, passionately, and by every motorcyclist and every American that believes in fighting discrimination and advancing their civil liberties.
So what was the real reason for the biker gathering in Waco on May 17th?
In reality it was a publicized and regularly scheduled political meeting intended to discuss legislative matters. The Confederation of Clubs (C.O.C.) is part of a grassroots political movement of autonomous and loosely affiliated Confederations and Coalitions of motorcycle clubs across the country. COC’s are solely focused on biker rights. There are Confederations in almost every state and they have been peacefully meeting and organizing for decades. Many also participate in the US Defenders program, a Biker Communication Network connecting Confederations together. Confederations are comprised of a wide range of diversity, including military clubs, Christian clubs, clean and sober clubs, 1% clubs, firefighter clubs, bikers against child abuse clubs, vintage clubs, charity clubs, and plain old riding clubs.
To suggest, as some have, that COC’s are controlled by dominant or criminal organizations is patently false. COC’s have nothing to do with club to club issues. COC’s are not used to fund and support dominant organizations. These assertions fly in the face of reality and the history of the COC.
What is the Confederation of Club’s agenda and what has the COC done for bikers?
The list of COC legal and legislative achievements, ranging from helmet choice to anti-profiling, have undeniably strengthened the rights base for all motorcyclists. There are literally hundreds of Confederation of Clubs meetings happening year round from coast-to-coast. Almost every state has a biker day at the Capitol. And for decades there have been no incidents at these united political gatherings.
A cornerstone of the Confederation of Clubs is unifying the motorcycle club and independent community for the purpose of protecting 1st Amendment rights, including the right to wear motorcycle club colors. The right to associate and peacefully assemble for political and legal activism is also protected. Confederations nationwide peacefully assemble solely to discuss strategies to protect these rights. There is an attorney present at every COC meeting to insure that the focus remains on legal and legislative matters.
Tragedy does not justify wholesale discrimination.
It is important that we not allow an isolated tragedy, regardless of how the story ultimately plays out, to justify discrimination or fear of an entire class of people defined by protected expression. That some are doing just that is both alarming and disturbing. There are literally hundreds of thousands of club members and independents nationwide that participate in Confederations and Coalitions and to imply that an isolated tragedy makes all club members a potential threat is blatant discrimination based on appearance and not conduct.
Isolated incidents or the actions of the few do not define the whole. Postal workers are not considered dangerous and psychotic. Every law enforcement officers is not a racist murderer. Every teenager in a trench coat is not a potential school shooter. Batman fans are not generally a threat in public theaters. Most Muslims are not jihadists or terrorists. Most black teenagers are not drug dealers or gang bangers. And the vast majority of motorcyclists and members of motorcycle clubs, even self-identified 1% clubs, are not criminals or gang members, do not have criminal records, and do not represent a threat to anyone.
To allow false statements to justify the obvious violations of Due Process that have occurred in Waco is unjust. Characterizing 177 individuals as gang members, instead of political activists present during a tragedy, was directly used to justify the mass arrests and promote a campaign of fear. The truth must be the unified response.
The Confederation of Clubs has had an extremely positive effect on peace and unification among motorcycle clubs and motorcyclists of all walks of life. The achievements of an important political constituency must not be tarnished by overzealous discrimination justified by fear. The Confederation of Clubs is a grassroots effort that epitomizes participation in the democratic process and deserves to be recognized as such.
David “Double D” Devereaux is the Chairman & Spokesperson for the Washington State Confederation of Clubs and US Defenders, The Motorcycle Profiling Project, and works with Confederations and Coalitions nationwide. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, motorcycleprofilingproject.com