Tuesday, 12 November 2013

One Percent

In Australia, there are quite a few outlaw motorcycle gangs. I don't want people thinking we all live on Anarchie Road, but there are quite a few. Not only have some American motorcycle gangs immigrated here such as the Bandidos, but we have our own homegrown gangs. There are the Comancheros, who are at loggerheads with the Australian branches of Hells Angels; the Finks (who've either joined forces with or have been absorbed by the Mongols) & the Rebels, the largest outlaw motorcycle gang in Australia, which was founded in my hometown of Brisbane. There are many other gangs I didn't bother looking up.
This isn't common knowledge or anything, I did some research for this post to find out about the gangs, but all in all, I'm working on what my family has told me as well as what the news says. From this, I know that police have been cracking down hard on motorcycle gangs lately, due to perceived escalating crime. The most prevalent activity includes a Gold Coast Bikie Brawl involving many police officers and dozens of Bandido gang members & the hospitalization of a 13-year old girl, who was hit by a stray pellet when some alleged members of the newly formed "Brothers for Life" motorcycle gang attacked her family home with a shotgun, looking for her brother.

This is all pretty nasty stuff, but for the most part I don't worry too much about it. I don't worry because, as much as the news makes a big fuss about it, ninety-nine percent of the time, motorcycle gangs are pretty harmless. The Word of the Day is: 'BIKIE'.

Bikie /buykee/ n. Australia, NZ A member of a motorcycle gang.

Each motorcycle club has some kind of symbol or "patch" to identify themselves, as well as mottos, colours and traditions. The Rebels Motorcycle Club patch depicts a confederate flag, a skull wearing a hat and a blue label that says"1%". This One Percent symbol is a reference to a comment supposedly made by the American Motorcyclist Association:
  "99% of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens"
The Rebels, as well as many other outlaw bikie gangs, call themselves "one percenters", identifying themselves as that outlying percentage of motorcyclists that willfully break the law and so they use such symbolism in their self-decoration.

The reason why I use it for the name of this post is because I also feel that 99% of the time, bikie gangs fight amongst themselves; 99% of the time, innocent people don't get hurt. Sure, these gangs offer drugs, illegal prostitution and commit other such crimes, but the people involved in this kind of thing, even if they're not a part of the gang, are still criminals. So I don't much care what outlaw gangs do.
I'm not saying that these bikies should be free to do what they want, there's a reason these things are called crimes and police deal with this kind of thing when it occurs. I think the legal system deals with this issue rather well as it is. If an outlaw motorcycle gangster commits a crime, the police deal with it, that works for me.

But the problem is that politicians are getting frustrated. They know that these gangs commit crimes, but they can't just arrest everyone because they can only put someone in jail after they've committed a crime and it's too hard to separate the crooks from the bike enthusiasts.
They are known as "outlaw" gangs (anecdotally) because they don't follow the recommended constitutional template that the government provides for social organisations, and most motorcycle clubs either engage in (or turn a blind eye to) criminal behaviour, but that doesn't make them all criminals and you can't arrest all 200 members of a bike club if just a few of them are caught committing a crime (even if you're certain that the gang will commit more crime).
Also, if a crime is small enough, the criminals will get out of jail (or post bail) and join the club again pretty soon, so police feel like they've got a real fight on their hands that they can't win with good police-work alone, so instead they're trying to allow for a form of nasty, unconstitutional police-work. That's not hyperbole, they're trying to implement some new laws that are flat-out unconstitutional, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Basically, they're using this bikie brawl and the hospitalized girl (and a slew of other big-ticket criminal activities committed by bikers) as a battering ram to burst open the floodgates of legislative change. They're using these examples of bikie crime to scare the public and wake them up to this criminal activity in the hopes that people will fear bikies enough to stand behind some new laws that politicians want to put in place (not that we can do anything about it, as it's a high court decision; but they're politicians, they want us to know anyway). These laws, as they tell us, will make it illegal to be a member or associate of a motorcycle gang, and would identify outlaw motorcycle clubs as criminal organizations.

Now this seems like a good idea at first, but there's a couple of problems. Firstly, they don't tell people what these laws will actually do. I was told by one News outlet that the laws were designed to make sentences longer for crimes committed by criminal organizations; another said that they wanted to make it possible to ratify outlaw motorcycle gangs as illegal criminal organizations & yet another said that they wanted to make it illegal for criminals to congregate. Nobody is letting me know what these laws are capable of, even if they are instituted.

Luckily, my father is an attorney and he's had a look into what these laws can do. Basically these laws (proposed by Anna Bligh) are Anti-Association Laws, which would allow police to collect evidence and present a case to the parliament with the intention of declaring an organization as "illegal". Once an organization is declared illegal as ratified by the parliament, it would then place members of that organization under very strict laws that can take away many of their rights:
It may be illegal for members of an outlaw organization to fraternize with other members that have committed a crime or associate with them; it may be illegal for any member to hold certain jobs, enter certain places or possess certain items and could even make it illegal for them to use a phone or access the internet; it may give the police powers to hold certain people in their custody without disclosing to the perpetrator what evidence they have & members of these outlaw organizations would have their personal information (such as birth date and home address) available on a register for the public to review at their pleasure.

The problem with these laws is all in the name: Anti-Association. In this country (and most others) you have the right to be friends with whomever you want to or to associate with any person that you like. Of course, it's illegal to work together to commit a crime, but if your best friend commits a crimeon his own you are still allowed to be his friend. That's in the Australian Constitution, the right to Associate with whomever you so choose. That is why these laws are having so much trouble being passed - they go against our own basic, constitutional rights to associate.
Not to mention, while we keep calling theselaws  anti-bikie laws in the news, nowhere in this proposed law do they mention the word "bikie", "motorcycle" or "motorcyclist". These are for any organizations that commit crime.

These aren't anti-bikie laws, these are police powers to restrict the constitutional rights of anyone that associates with a criminal.
For that very reason, the lawyers of the Hells Angels have challenged these laws and, in a just world, they will succeed. I want to stop criminals as much as the next policeman, but I don't want to do so by taking away the freedoms of innocent people (even if their friends are crooks), which is exactly what these laws would allow.

One example (jokingly) given was that of the Catholic Church. Due to the prevalence of paedophilia and obstruction of justice within the Catholic Church, a case could be put forward to deem that organization illegal.
Of course such a claim would never be passed, as it would have to be ratified by the parliament and they don't have the balls to do that, but the claim has merit. Organizations like the chapters of Girl Guides; Alcoholic's Anonymous; Scouts Australia & the WA Farmer's Federation could be persecuted by these laws, as would any business, organization, club, association or incorporation.
Now, I'm not saying that all of these clubs would be deemed illegal under these laws, most of them wouldn't, there needs to be evidence against them for them to be ratified by the parliament. However if it were discovered, for example, that there was a dog-fighting ring being run by members of the Girl Guides, and they were ratified as an illegal organizaion, then everyone (over the age of 16) who was a part of or associated with that chapter [or potentially the organization at large, but I'm not sure how broad the laws are] would be persecuted by these laws and have their rights taken away by merely associating with the criminals involved.

See, the thing that a lot of people seem to lose sight of is that crime is illegal. When someone commits a crime, the police investigate in the hopes of finding the perpetrator and bringing them to justice, regardless of whether they are an "outlaw" motorcyclist or not. Being the member of a gang doesn't mean you won't get caught, there is already enough power to stop criminals. These laws don't exist to stop criminals, they exist to discriminate against people and to punish those that have not committed a crime.
Luckily the Australian Police Force intends on being very light-handed with these laws and they only plans on using these powers to stop motorcycle gangs, youth gangs and other criminal organizations. If these laws are allowed to pass then most of the time - one might even say 99% of the time - these laws would be used for good. But I'm very worried about the other 1% . . .
Tom Fitzgerald, a former judge and an opponent of these laws, spoke to the media and said this of the laws:
  "History teaches us that claims that repressive laws will reduce serious crime are usually hollow and that laws which erode individual freedom and expand a state's power over its citizens are fraught with peril."

Thankfully, I don't think these laws need to come into power anyway. These laws will probably not pass, but either way police won't be able to stop it. As has been pointed out, if someone is already a criminal, what makes you think they'll care that they're "committing a crime" by having a drink with their mates?
I predict that, anti-association laws or not, police are going to hit hard for a while and put some folks in jail, to scare the bikies into staying out of the public eye. If cops can teach bikies "When you go too far, we go too far", then maybe bikies will try harder to police themselves so as to avoid inciting another political flare-up like this and this should scare them back into a manageable level of crime (or at least make the media shut up about it).

At the end of the day, while it's taken to mean "outlaw motorcyclists", a bikie is anyone that rides a motorcycle. I live in a family of bikies. Just this weekend, my brother earned his learner license for a motorcycle, which means that everyone else in my family (my two older brothers and my parents) own motorcycle licenses and most of them own some form of motorbike. One day I would like to get a motorcycle license, although another stupid law says that you need to have a car license first if you live in Queensland.
As such, I know that there are a lot of laws that discriminate against motorcyclists and a lot of police treat motorcyclists more harshly. What I'm saying is, there's already enough discrimination against motorcycle riders that we don't need to implement "anti-bikie" laws to give the police more of an excuse. After all, the word of the day is "BIKIE", not "CRIMINAL".

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time I'm going to see if I can start up my own outlaw bikie gang without a motorcycle or a license.

2 comments:

  1. Lordy; I didn't realize the laws being pushed were constitutional violations! That sounds like an extreme use of judicious power, and extremely unfair. It's a common problem in the Western World, good intentions leading to totalitarian laws, but that doesn't mean we should let it happen, and I'm glad people aren't.
    I hope that your family stays safe with these laws, and that they rock the road when you get your license

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    1. Luckily, I don't think a family counts as an "organization", so my brothers are safe from such laws, but my parents are both in a bikie club called "Ulysses", an Australian motorcycling social club for 40+ yr olds.
      I don't know if any of them commit crimes, but I DO know that some of the members there don't "smoke legally", so my Mum and Dad could be caught up in this nonsense.
      But I'm pretty sure these laws won't hang around, they're discriminatory and draconian.

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