Motorcycle clubs are often perceived as criminal
organizations or, at best, gangs of hoodlums or thugs by traditional
society. This perception has been fueled by the movies, popular
culture, and highly publicized isolated incidents, the earliest
of which was a brawl in Hollister, California in 1947 between members
of the Boozefighters MC (motto: a drinking club with a motorcycle
problem) and the Pissed Off Bastards MC (precursor to the
The press asked the American Motorcyclist Association
(AMA) to comment, and their response was that 99% of motorcyclists
were law-abiding citizens, and the last one percent were outlaws.
Thus was born the term, "one percenter".
During the 1940's and 1950's, at rallies and gatherings
sponsored by the AMA, prizes were awarded for nicest club uniform,
prettiest motorcycle, and so forth. Some clubs, however, rejected
the clean-cut image and adopted the "one percenter" moniker,
even going so far as to create a diamond (rhombus) shaped
patch labeled "1%" to wear on their vests as a badge of
The 1% patch is also used to instill fear and respect
from the general public and other motorcyclists. Other clubs wore
(and still wear) upside down AMA patches.
*Another practice was to cut their one piece club
patches into three or more pieces as a form of protest, which evolved
into the current form of three piece colors worn by many MCs today.
One percent clubs point out that the term simply
means that they are simply committed to "biking and brotherhood",
where riding isn't a weekend activity, but a way of living. These
clubs assert that local and national law enforcement agencies have
co-opted the term to paint them as criminals.
While it is a fact that individual members of some
MCs, and even entire chapters have engaged in felonious behavior,
other members and supporters of these clubs insist that these are
isolated occurrences and that the clubs, as a whole, are not criminal
organizations. They often compare themselves to police departments,
wherein the occasional "bad cop" does not make a police
department a criminal organization, either.
At least one biker website has a news section devoted
to "cops gone bad" to support their point of view.
Many one percenter clubs, including the Hells Angels,
sponsor charitable events throughout the year for such causes as
Salvation Army shelters and Toys for Tots.
Alternatively, both the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI) and Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC)
have designated certain MCs as Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs),
among them the Pagans, Hells Angels, Outlaws MC, and Bandidos.
Canada, especially, has experienced a significant
upsurge in crime involving members and associates of these MCs,
most notably in what has been dubbed the Quebec Biker war.
Some members of the Hells Angels MC have been indicted
on various charges, including RICO charges, murder, robbery, extortion,
trafficking in stolen and VIN-switched motorcycles, methamphetamine
and cocaine distribution.
In April, 2006, eight members or associates of the
Bandidos MC were found murdered in a farm field in Ontario, Canada
in what police have described as an internal cleansing of the Bandidos
organization. One of the men charged with the murders is, himself,
a Bandidos MC full patch member.
As recently as September 29, 2006, the president
and another officer of the San Francisco chapter of the Hells Angels
were indicted on charges of methamphetamine and cocaine distribution.