SO YOU WANT TO WEAR A PATCH...
Updated: Dec 16, 2019
So, you’ve decided to join a club. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single-patch riding club or a 3-piece MC- you’re going to be confronted and questioned at some point. Being ready and prepared will make any interaction go more smoothly. Why will you be confronted? Well, the COC (or similar named organization of local clubs dominated by the local 1% clubs) in the area believes that they are the only authority that can decide if you are good enough to wear a patch. Yes, you read that correctly. The Coalition Of Clubs (Lead by the dominant 1% club in the area) feels that they are in charge of anyone wanting to be part of a brotherhood of like-minded people. These 1% clubs and their followers want all clubs to support their club by wearing a “support” patch or by paying dues to their club in the name of the COC for the privilege of riding with your club’s patches in their area. And that’s only where it starts. Often the COC clubs are expected to attend events to support the local 1%ers’ club and are “on call” if needed to perform tasks, act as their eyes and ears, and to set up and clean up after their parties etc.. Does that sound like what you’re looking for? Me neither…
What alternative is there? Well, you have a couple options. You can go it alone. There is a chance that the governing 1%ers’ or their supporters will leave you alone for a time. Depending on what your patches look like, how often you ride, or where you wear your colors will vary the time it takes to be noticed. However you will be noticed and you will be confronted sooner or later. The other option is you can join the Alliance, a group of law-abiding bikers and motorcycle clubs that believe everyone has a right to wear whatever they want on their backs as free men. Whether you chose to go it alone or part of the Alliance be prepared because you will be confronted and challenged.
It is important to note that the majority of people challenging you will be a member of a support club that has already made their choice to follow the 1% COC or a sidewalk commando (a non-clubber with a big mouth who thinks he has some kind of duty to carry out a mission to defend the 1% club). It could come from some biker chick that hangs out with a club or even from law enforcement. Either way, you will hear the following questions on a regular basis:
Where did you guys come from?
Why didn’t you join the COC?
Who gave you permission to wear those patches?
Who said you can wear a state rocker?
Who said you could wear an MC cube?
The 1%ers’ and their support system will threaten and try and intimidate you. You will hear:
I’m leaving with those patches.
Take the patches off of your vests right now.
We don’t want to see anyone hurt over this.
We will shut you guys down.
We will shoot you off your bikes or run you off the road.
You need to remove (specific) patch right now.
You won’t see it coming.
And many more scary, creative threats
The most important thing to do in any of these situations is stay calm and confident. Do not get cocky or violent, but be prepared to defend yourself. Maintain eye contact and offer a handshake while introducing yourself. Do not turn your back on them. Do not accept that these people have any authority over you. You can let them know that you don’t ask for anyone’s permission to wear your patches. You are an independent club that is law-abiding and that you do not claim or want territory. You are just enjoying riding with your Brothers and enjoying the Brotherhood. When dealing with another MC, you should:
Be respectful without being subservient.
Identify whom you are dealing with and who they answer to.
Get contacts from them if possible to create a possible dialogue.
Answer questions truthfully or with “that’s club business” if critical information.
Never give critical information (locations, member numbers, etc)
If you are law enforcement, identify yourself as such.
Do not remove any patches or tell them that you are “not looking for trouble.” Doing either of these will only make your situation worse. You are being tested to see if you’re “man enough” in their eyes to wear a patch. If you choose to wear a patch then you are also choosing to defend that patch. You should always be prepared to physically defend yourself if the situation turns violent.
You may be asked (commanded) to attend a sit down with the local 1% club or the COC. This sit down is not a good idea. They will intimidate you and threaten you with their associates in attendance. They will tell you to cease and remove the patches or a beating is going to happen. They will tell you exactly what you will be allowed to do and where you will be allowed to go even though you surrender your patches. Sit downs are really another way for the dominant clubs to enforce their will and if you are the unlucky pick they will use you as an example to dissuade any future bikers from starting up a club they don’t control. You will be told there are enough clubs in the area and you should join one of the existing clubs they sanction. Sit downs are not a good idea. However constructive communication is the best alternative. Instead of a sit down try to meet at a safe neutral location with a lot of non-biker witnesses and cameras like a Starbucks. Be truthful and straight forward but offer no compromises that don’t make sense. If they request you not go to specific bars, events, rides etc. then honor their request if it makes sense. For example, if they have local watering holes they frequent you don’t want to go there anyway. Only trouble will result from going to their hang outs. However, if they say don’t participate in the Toys for Tots run sponsored by the Marine Corps. It is best to refrain from agreeing since it is not a 1% event that is attended by many law abiding motorcycle organizations. Whatever you do agree to; be sure you do exactly what you said you would do. Do not expect them to do exactly what they said they will do just be ready for anything. Remember, they consider themselves outlaw bikers because they make their own rules and if breaking their own rules fits their mood at any given time then that’s what they’ll do. On your side however, do not take their breach of the agreement as a license to break your side. Always take the high road and do what you say you will do. That goes a long way if something does go sideways. Even leaders of most 1% clubs want some kind of code of honor.
Lastly, you will be questioned by law enforcement. It may be during a traffic stop or while at an event. It may be casual or confrontational depending on the situation. It is better for everyone involved if you contact your local police authorities and introduce yourself and your club. Tell them who you are, where you will be going regularly, what kind of club you are, what your patches look like, and any other information they may ask for. Let them know your intentions of being law abiding and wearing your patches which may cause problems with the local 1% club and their associates. This will definitely help to establish who the bad guys are in any confrontation should things go bad. If you run into law enforcement on the road, here are some things to do:
If you are carrying a lawfully concealed weapon, inform the officer that you are and where it is being carried.
Always be respectful.
Always be truthful
Always have your documentation with you and make sure its current.
Remember, the law enforcement community does not know who you are or what you are about. Many LEO’s will only see your vest and assume that you are associated with a 1% group. It is your job to show them what you stand for. With everything that law enforcement has been going through between negative public image and being targeted for violence, they have good reason to be vigilant. Treat them with respect and you will be treated with respect in return.
After going through all these steps do not think you are on easy street. Even if the local COC gives you a nod or a pass, nothing is forever. Things can change in a second. Leadership changes at the COC, moods change because of outside events, other clubs create tension and pressure just to keep gossip, rumor and conjecture alive and well, and non-clubbers just like to cause trouble between clubs to watch the show. There are many more unknowns that can happen including women who date bikers from all clubs and love the club scene just to be part of the excitement of the biker lifestyle and getting two clubs into a war is just part of their show. Be cautious with women, non-clubbers, sidewalk commandos, other clubs, and even Harley shops. Any of these and others can cause huge flair ups of violence over the simplest issues or problems. Mind your own business, don’t pass on rumors about other clubs, don’t say bad things about other clubs or get involved in any club or COC politics. You will have enough of your own drama to keep you busy.
How you act and how your club rolls will be watched under a magnifying glass. Everything you wear, put on a website, say in public, post on social media, pictures taken and put on the web, and how you act in public will be scrutinized and will become fair game to the internet haters. Internet haters are basically morons who love to get on the internet and write horrific things to cause problems for everyone. They feel safe and empowered because no one can find them or hold them accountable for their stupidity. It is best to control what you can control and that is how you act in public and what you put on the internet. Remember, if you act like a 1%er then you will be treated like a 1%er. Be yourselves and stay in your lane. You started a club that hopefully reflects your values and outlook on life. Be what you say you are. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
As you get out of the gate and you move forward, you will face the challenges of bringing on new members. It is critical to vet your possible new members to make sure they align with your values and principles and more importantly they agree to abide by your club’s policies and agreements you established with other clubs or yourselves. It is critical to keep in mind that what one member does or says reflects on your whole club because outsiders conclude that what one patch wearing member does or says is OK with the rest of the patch wearers of that club. Of course that is not true but it is perception that counts. Other clubs and outsiders believe that all clubs will abide by their own rules so if one of your members is not abiding by your rules outsiders believe you have different rules. Hold your membership accountable to your club’s values and principles and that means all new people you bring into your organization.