July - 2000
Vol# 16 - Issue# 42
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs: Alliance and Expansion
"Hell's Angels don't go lookin for members. The club grows, because people 'want to emulate us in the motorcycle culture. We're a society unto ourselves and we don't want to create problems for anybody"' (George Christie Jr., Leader of Ventura, CA Hell's Angels to Ian Timberlake: Toronto Sun) The original motorcycle gangs of the post-World War II 1940's were based on the idea that civilian life was not stimulating enough for ex-military personnel as they attempted to adjust back into civilian society. In an attempt to relieve their "post-war boredom," they took to the road on powerful Harley Davidson or Indian motorcycles (Haut, 2000: 1). These groups were not associated with major criminal acts, but more with "general lawlessness, drunken brawls, and noisy take offs" (Haut, 2000: 1). In other words, good old boys having fun and freedom to live life. Fifty years later, the activities associated with outlaw motorcycle clubs are much darker and foreboding. In contradiction to the statement by Hell's Angels leader George Christie Jr., groups like the Hell's Angels have been looking for members in an attempt to gain valuable territory in Canada. Former boundaries, geographically and market based, have begun to deteriorate in the last twenty years, leading to violent confrontations between groups vying for the Canadian drug market. What has resulted is a mixture of alliances between factions, amalgamations under larger entities for the purposes of shoring strength to maintain existing territory in the wake of expansion agendas. This discussion will examine the existence of small independent motorcycle clubs in Canada and their subsequent links with several members of the big four: Hell's Angels, Outlaws, Bandidos, and the Pagans. In particular, this investigation will examine the bloodiest ongoing biker feud to date: the turf war between the Hell's Angels and the Rock Machine in Quebec.
The Past: Isolated Independence
With the formation of the California motorcycle gangs in the 1940's, and the subsequent delineation of the 1%ers following the Hollister events in 1947 and 1948 (Wolf, 1991:7), bikers began to be extolled as the rebellious alternative to North American society. The Hollywood production of biker movies such as The Wild One spread the image of the glamorous yet violent aspects of gang life to the public, thus exacerbating the recent, isolated events at Hollister (Wolf, 1991:7). It would cultivate fear in the contemporary conservative, but prove to be an attractive alternative for fringe elements of society. Therefore, as the original California bikers traveled around the country and into Canada, they would most assuredly have attracted those of similar orientation. Although the first recognized biker club in Canada was established in Toronto, Ontario (Canadian Lancers), a wide-spread presence was not seen until the early 1960s (Wolf, 1991; Lavigne, 1987). There have been clubs in Western Canada for about forty years while other groups, such as the Grim Reapers, marked their twenty-ninth anniversary in Alberta in 1996 (Demers, 1996: 1). Other independent clubs are documented to have developed in this same time period, as seen in the Rebels I Alberta and Saskatchewan I (Wolf, 1991:9), the Quebec clubs [Pacific Rebels, Black Spiders, Flambeurs (formerly the Drageurs & Jokers), the Missiles, the Gitans & Atomes, Mauradeurs, and Popeyes (Lavigne, 1987:221-232)], and the Satan's Choice (Ontario). It should be noted that these groups existed as individual, independent entities. There was some local level fluctuations in group dynamics as illustrated in the development of the Flambeurs from two 'dying gangs;' the Drageurs and the Jokers. However, they remained independents within the area that had been occupied by the two smaller gangs (Mont-Joli, Quebec). The activities of these small autonomous groups ranged in their criminality and ferocity. Depending on the mood and need of the gangs, they participate in acts of public mischief, vandalism, and petty levels of extortion on the community and fellow members. The Flambeurs routinely would set up roadblocks on main thoroughfares and charge cars $2 tolls to pass. Those who refused were turned away, damaged, or both. Most paid the toll (Lavigne, 1987:225). In other cases, restaurants, bars, or clubs have been destroyed and clients and tourists driven off. The seriousness of the gang situation became more extreme as they engaged in armed robbery, theft, rape, and murder of other gang members in full view of the public. For example, in March 1974, a fight between the Atomes and the Gitans escalates in a public parking lot and is continued later in the corridors of a Sherbrooke hospital where the wounded have been taken (Lavigne, 1987:228). Many of these communities were at a loss as to how to deal with the gangs, since many of the members were "home town boys." Police failed to interfere either because they were unequipped or they and their families had been threatened, as seen in the Marauders in Asbestos, Quebec (Lavigne, 1987:229). The biker groups capitalized on the public fear that they caused, furthering their reputations by varying their responses to situations. This unpredictability meant that they could gauge their behavior to suit their needs. The destruction of property and the occasional innocent bystander meant that the public would leave them alone and it would make police wary of approaching them. Altercations with other gangs could also range from an exchange of words to a baseball bat swing to knives or worse yet, the exchange of gunfire (Lavigne, 1987: 221-232). Since life in Canada has always been relatively peaceful concerning guns, there has always been enforced and complied gun control measures (Richter, 2000). The indiscriminate use of gunfire served to further shock these formerly peaceful communities. Among all of the different criminal endeavors that these different groups might have engaged in, there was a common linkage between them. Lavigne, i
"They rumble, steal and drink … To ride and bang is fun as long as that's all there is in life. But there comes a time when a man has to work. Selling drugs is the easiest way out of a regular job for a biker." (1987:221) When the bikers were operating as small independent groups, terrorizing the communities they occupied, they provided the service of drug trafficking. The Spiders in Saint-Michel De Bellechase introduced marijuana and hash to their community in 1974 with the added benefit of blackmailing local girls, who had purchased drugs from them, into sex (Lavigne, 1987:223). Initially, the drugs were sold to fellow gang members, then to the local teenagers, and finally to other motorcycle gangs. Thus, gangs that were on good terms with each other, such as the Gitans and Popeyes, would share drugs or establish networks between them, further expanding territory through mutual good will (Lavigne, 1987:224). These drug arrangements appear to have been established with profit in mind and appropriate measures would be taken to ensure the smooth flow of drugs/money. Even in this early stage, disputes sometimes developed into small scale wars over territory. However, the point should be made that the groups remained independent despite temporary alliances and that the hostilities remained geographically localized. Southern Expansion Then something happened which would forever change the face of outlaw motorcycle gangs in Canada. There was an American infiltration and invasion from two major OMGs, the Outlaws and the Hell's Angels, in 1977. It is difficult to discern which OMG first courted the idea of northern expansion and made the first move, but in retrospect it is immaterial. The inevitable outcome would be the same since after one OMG moved in, its enemies would surely follow in an attempt to block any chances of becoming more powerful. As a result, rivalries that had developed in the preceding decades south of the Canadian border were transported north to an already volatile, but contained, criminal system. The result was an opportunity rich environment for profit, now regionally connected, and with vast loyalty/warring obligations. The Popeyes were the most powerful and most dispersed independent group in Quebec, as it had members in multiple cities: Laval, Trois-Rivieres, Sorel, and Repentigny, Quebec (Lavigne, 1987:29). They became the Hell's Angels first Canadian chapter on December 5, 1977, baptizing the official introduction of the Angels north of the border. The Popeyes became members of the Hell's Angels federation, thus shedding their colors and taking on the fights and responsibilities of an Angel's chapter. This is the opposite of becoming a member of an alliance, since those joined in these affiliations retain their colors and independence. However, they did occassionally wear separate patches indicating their ties to the other groups (Wolf, 1991: 237). They did not remain a small, static group after their re-defined emergence, but the Montreal chapter actively recruited gangs (whole or best members) from around the province and created business ties with affiliated gangs (Lavigne, 1987:230-231). The Montreal chapter became so large that by September 14, 1979, it split to form the official North chapter and the original Montreal chapter. It is the North group that proves difficult for the Angels to control since it refused to ease up on the drug use (Lavigne, 1987: 232), particularly heroine, which is outlawed by the Angels for their own consumption as it continues to develop its vast trafficking networks. Around the same time that the Popeyes were joining the Hell's Angels federation, a second American OMG was making its move into Canada: the Outlaws. In the early 1970's, the Toronto chapter of the Satan's Choice Motorcycle Club (MC) initiated a war with two other groups, the Vagabonds MC and the Black Diamond Riders MC (formerly the Canadian Lancers in Toronto). Although this war was taking place in Ontario, it provided the Outlaws the opportunity to later take-over in the wake of the post-war