MOTORCYCLE CLUBS, BACK PATCHES, AND THE CONFEDERATION OF CLUBS
The conflict between the law abiding biker club culture and the traditional outlaw/Confederation of Clubs (CoC) structure has several components:
A typical CoC is made up of a board which includes representatives from outlaw motorcycle clubs operating in the same geographical area.
A CoC purports to represent “sanctioned” clubs in its geographical area, work on behalf of bikers’ rights, maintain some control over the formation of new clubs, and protect its own interests. CoCs’ will only work on behalf of those clubs who choose to join them. There is a perception in the motorcycle club world that a CoC is the sole administrator of bikers’ rights when it comes to motorcycle clubs. A majority of law abiding clubs reject the notion that a CoC may rule over them or require a new club to obtain permission to organize or wear any particular patch.
It is considered more than a courtesy in this outlaw culture to notify the “dominant” club in a given area when a new motorcycle organization is formed. This notification often takes the form of the applicant club actually obtaining “permission” to exist and “approval” of their patch design, along with a prohibition against wearing a rocker that identifies the club or wearer’s affiliation with geographical area such as a state, city, or county. Declining to ask “permission” has become a standard policy for law abiding start-up clubs.
This requirement to obtain permission to organize and wear identifying insignia is part of the “protocol” demanded by the outlaw biker culture of those targeted by the outlaw influence. This is contrary to the rights granted to everyone and anyone under our rule of law. The courtesy stops when those rights are denied by a CoC that has no real authority to do so. It is important to examine the reasons that outlaws impose these “protocols” and the methods they use to enforce them.
There is a growing body of knowledge that recognizes a standard meaning of back patches, without regard to design, which has gained acceptance in the law abiding biker world. These are by no means hard and fast rules. But they do differ from the views of outlaws, many of whom believe that their rules are the only rules. This is where the conflict begins.
Both sides generally agree that the traditional three- piece patch is credited to the anti-AMA sentiment that grew in the late 1940’s. However, there are still some outlaws that believe that only outlaws, sanctioned by outlaws, have the right to wear a three- piece patch. Yet, numerous bikers and organizations have adopted the three- piece patch for their own use. In some cases, cubes and additional pieces have been added by individual clubs who describe their colors as five or seven piece patches. Some clubs add Public Safety (PS) or LE (Law Enforcement) to the description to clarify who they are. The CoC protocol does not consider cubes on the back patch arrangement as a mitigating factor.. They are not willing to negotiate their standards regarding patch design. The actual image and name on the patches can be protected by our copyright and trademark laws. The numbers of pieces to a back patch arrangement is a DESIGN CONCEPT which can’t actually be owned by anyone.
When a CoC or outlaw group is offended by the formation of a non-sanctioned club in their area, they will make contact with that club to express their displeasure. It is most usually a support or subservient club member(s) that will initiate contact with the new offending club, and inform them that they are in “violation” of their protocol. The conversation will often start with a demand that the vest be removed and may include veiled or direct threats of violence, including the forcible removal of the patches or the entire vest.
The common complaint(s) from the outlaws are that the “MC” designation was not approved, or the multi-piece patch design was not approved, or that the bottom rocker designates a place that they claim as their “territory” and they have not granted the right to wear it. While these aspects of design may have originated in the earliest days of the outlaw biker culture, there is no legal prohibition against their use by others. If there were some legal protection or ownership rights to these parts of insignia, the outlaws would have certainly legally secured these rights by now. If they had such ownership, we would certainly respect it.
To be clear, the forcible removal of a vest by the threat of force or by actual force is a felony crime in all states. The detention of a person against their will is a crime in all states. The threat or use of violence is their only means to enforce these protocols and when carried out, makes the perpetrators criminal actors.
CoCs’ have the right to establish protocols and impose them on those who wish to comply voluntarily. This is done by clubs who seek the approval and acceptance of those outlaw clubs who exist at the top of the CoC hierarchy. However, they have no right to impose these protocols on any club that exists outside the CoC structure.
The authority of a CoC is limited to that which is granted to them by those who choose to be governed by them. The power of the CoC, outside of their structure, exists only in their willingness to use coercive influence or criminal means to enforce their protocols on nonparticipants in the biking world. CoC’s are only seen as legitimate in the eyes of those who fall under their governance and those who benefit from it.
We recognize that not all CoC members are invested in the outlaw culture and some participate only because they want to peacefully co-exist. We have no quarrel with diplomacy or equitable agreements among parties.
It is fair to say that not all CoC’s or outlaw actors will attempt to interfere with a law abiding motorcycle club of any kind. But these incidents are on the rise. The co-operative nature of The Alliance and growing intelligence network has allowed us to better track incidents of outlaw aggression against law abiding clubs. As The Alliance grows our network gets stronger.
The Alliance seeks only to promote the safe and free pursuit of the motorcycle club and association culture for its members and all law abiding bikers. We have no quarrel with outlaws who choose to live in that world. We simply choose not to, and will not be forced to be part of it. Outlaws demand they be allowed to choose a lifestyle. We only claim the same rights.
The law abiding motorcycle club culture has very little in common with the outlaw biker culture. Other than non-specific appearance and organized group orientation, we differ in philosophy, function, and operations. The vast majority of law abiding motorcycle clubs have no external business interests or profit motive. The common thread of all clubs is the social aspect which revolves around motorcycling. The second most common aspect of law abiding clubs is that the members and their clubs invest a great deal of their time and money in charitable and benevolent causes. The majority of law abiding clubs support public safety occupations, practitioners, and causes. The same cannot be said for outlaw groups.
Finally, the main difference between the outlaw biker culture and the law abiding biker culture is that law abiding clubs strive for peaceful co-existence as the prime directive. We do not seek conflict with anyone, especially other clubs. We make it a priority to settle our differences with diplomacy and not violence. We bring social responsibility and a respect for others into the public domain.