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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Count me among those mystified over the biker gang melee in Waco, Texas — a shootout that left nine dead. Why are these guys committing grown-up violence over the seemingly adolescent concern of who belongs to their group and who doesn’t? Who are they?

For answers, I consulted James F. Quinn, a University of North Texas sociologist who has studied the Bandidos and other outlaw biker “clubs.”

Many of the members came out of the military with skills of war and low tolerance for ordinary civilian life. They borrow their imagery from the old Western outlaws, having traded horses for motorcycles. Billy the Kid would be a model biker.

They engage in drug trafficking, prostitution, extortion and the like. But so do cartels and other powerful organized crime syndicates. (Texas law enforcement considers the Bandidos a Tier 2 threat, with Tier 1 reserved for the cartels.)

But are these (mostly) white guys on Harleys making real money?

“A few people are making a very large sum of money,” Quinn said, “and some people are just getting by.” Some also have day jobs. They run the gamut.

As most of us know, the outlaw bikers have little in common with the lawyer/teacher/retiree motorcyclists dressing the part on weekends. My only complaint on meeting many biker couples headed to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, was that they hogged the washing machines at Motel 6.

Some reports say the riot at the Twin Peaks sports bar started in a battle over a parking space. Others, an exchange of words in the men’s room. Yet another, a “provocation” centered on the wearing of a Texas patch by members of the Cossacks, a gang rival to the Bandidos.

Quinn sees the explosion as the result of a two-year buildup of tensions between the gangs.

“When one club dominates an area, they don’t want others coming through without their permission,” Quinn said. “They believe the other clubs should be subservient.”

The Bandidos fancy they run Texas from the seats of their Harleys. A counter view is that Texas is run from skyscrapers in Dallas and Houston by men who drive Lexuses and Mercedes-Benzes.

In any case, men who join outlaw biker clubs are in it for more than the money. “A lot of it is about excitement, male camaraderie,” Quinn said. “They want to live in that masculine excitement. It’s a hyper-excitement kind of atmosphere.”

Women are not invited. Women are never members of a “1 percent club,” a reference to the tiny percentage of motorcyclists not considered law-abiding citizens. Women are there to serve, which is why the Waco bikers gravitated to a Hooters clone restaurant, where the waitresses wear tops cut low and shorts cut high.

As for the violence in Waco, Quinn believes that even the bikers didn’t foresee the enormity of what occurred. He hesitates to speculate on what will happen next. An amazing 170 arrestees are facing criminal charges, but not many of them are in jail.

“There are going to be a lot of funerals, people coming in from out of town,” Quinn said, “but for the next few weeks, we’re going to see quiet because they know they are being watched.”

What fascinates the outside world about these outlaw bikers is the extraordinary energy they expend for a sense of belonging and a right to bully. Many comments following the Waco coverage ridiculed their hairy faces and paunchy middles.

In the end, one observes all those able-bodied men looking for action and concludes: What a tremendous waste of all that manpower.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at 

Screenshot via KXAN/YouTube

  • Clifford Terry

    Somebody has NOT done their background homework on biker gangs. They initially began after the Second World War. The people involved are primarily ex-military and many have been witness to some serious action. One of the best known (now ex-bikers) is Jesse Ventura. These gangs provided a place of camaraderie for people whose mental traumas suffered during military service either could not or were not being properly addressed by ‘civil society’. As such, these people had no other place to turn to vent their issues. Many people are aware of the high suicide and family violence rates among such veterans who cannot find proper outlets and choose not to go the path of bikers and/or mercenaries.

    These veterans are, in many ways outcasts, but their loyalty to service and country cannot be questioned. They ARE very loyal. The bikers are simply venting in ways civil society finds unacceptable. Having both known and worked with some veterans who suffered from PTSD the US has completely failed these people who gave so much – especially for the current veterans who are often shafted despite all that is now known about both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries.

    Unless these people can find ways to receive appropriate therapies for their conditions, many people coming out of the military who have served in situations wherein they fell victim to either PTSD or TBI will continue to seek to follow the biker and/or mercenary paths established by their biker forebears.

    • CPAinNewYork

      A better solution is to not get into wars that require the participation of American troops.

      • Paul Bass

        Two minutes later and I’m agreeing with you! Is it snowing in hell?

        Though the veterans didn’t get to choose to participate, their chicken hawk politicians decided this!

      • Clifford Terry

        Thank you for your comment. I thought that I had made that point but you have done it more succinctly. Unfortunately, I am too close to the issue due to the experience of having known some of these people. Understand though, that while many are ex-military, not all are. There are numbers who join because they desire ‘the adventure’ and as a means of rebelling against society, but the truly dangerous ones are most often, the ex-military.

    • Anna

      Excellent synopsis on the origin of biker gangs, Clifford. I had no idea what they stood for and why they exist. Thank you. It is shameful how our military simply chews them up and spits them out when they are done with them.

      • Clifford Terry

        Thank you for your comment. Understand, though that understanding of the human psyche was still in ‘infantile’ stages after World War II and the impact on the whole of the US population was such that they simply wished to put the entire affair behind them and move on with their lives. By the time of Vietnam, it was becoming understood that the trauma of war did have long term negative impact on many participants but the country fought with itself so hard on the issue of the war there was not the necessary motivation to understand more about the mental trauma immediately following the war. A decade later though PTSD was both defined and reasonably understood. One result of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions is not only further understanding of PTSD but the learning about a related issue – traumatic brain injury. When we realize that after the Korean War ALL wars the US has engaged in were in pursuit of profit, we begin to hopefully comprehend that all this death, injury, and destruction in pursuit of profit is NO way to run a country.

  • crosstown

    No excuses. They’re thugs. Nothing more.

  • Paul Bass

    All comments by non-motorcyclists are a little suspect.

    No, they are NOT thugs, and only a small percentage are even trouble-makers. Most just want to drink a few beers and play pool with their comrades. I don’t know what happened here, but having armed police shoothing at them didn’t help matters.

    I wonder how many deaths were from police gunfire? Come on, gimme a break, 50 year old fat guys on Harleys are not that much of a threat to police….

    • Chuck Kramer

      If you read the article, you’d know these were not the weekend warrior bikers but professional criminals. These were not guys who just wanted a few beers. I’m aware that there are different kinds of biker clubs, but these guys came ready for action – even if they didn’t anticipate how bad it would be.
      And I have been a motorcyclist for 25 years.

    • CPAinNewYork

      Paul Bass:

      You must be a biker to write drivel like that. The police should be encouraged to kill as many bikers as they can. Perhaps a reward for every biker killed would be appropriate.

      • Paul Bass

        Hey, how about the police go after all CPAs! A buncha overrated pencil necked risk-averse vanilla eaters. 😉 (I’ve worked for years in finance)

        And I’d much rather face whatever in a dark alley with these guys backing me up than some CPA yahoo from NEW YORK? HA HA HA!

        Come here and pick a fight in one of these bars and see how far it gets you…

        • CPAinNewYork

          You worked for years in finance? I don’t believe it.

          Who says the bikers would back you up, unless you are a biker? Are you admitting to being a biker? You are? Well then, you’re a member of the crap level of American society, one level lower than whale poop.

          • Paul Bass

            Nope, I’m admitting I’m an accountant AND a biker, so which is it that’s lower than whale poop?

    • 50-year-old fat guys on Harleys are the worst. They’re the ones that feel like they have something to prove — feel like they need to prove they’re the real deal.

      They’re the ones with the shortest fuses — the ones just BEGGING for someone to give any conceivable excuse to get in a fist fight with them.

      That’s how the shoot-out happened. Take two hundred people all engaged in a lifelong overcompensation for their small penises and put them all in the same place and you can be absolutely guaranteed the first thing they will do is start violently trying to prove which one of their dicks is the biggest.

  • Dominick Vila

    Who are they? Just about anything but Robin Hood. Many of these people have prison records, most are heavily armed and extremely dangerous, and both the Cossacks and the Bandidos engage in criminal acts. They are not patriots, they are criminal gangs.
    Let’s not confuse people like them with the folks we see at gatherings throughout the country when decent people ride their bikes and display they beautiful Harleys.

  • CPAinNewYork

    By the end of the twelfth century, Pope Urban II was so disgusted by the actions of the knights toward the civil population that he devised a way to get rid of them: the Crusades.

    Four centuries previously, the muslims had comquered Jerusalem, the center of Christianity. The Muslims were accommodating to the various Christian sects, allowing them free entrance to the city for their religious functions.

    In 1195, Urban II made a “deal” with the ignorant and superstitious knights: Go to Jerusalem, kick out the Muslims, return the city to Christianity and upon their death, all of their sins will be forgiven and they’ll get a “free pass” to heaven.

    What a deal! The knights took the bait, saddled up and went to the Holy Land, where they fought the Muslims. Successful at first, they eventually lost to Saladin, who kicked them out.

    Those who weren’t killed either returned to Europe or became mercenaries. Those who returned to Europe resumed their objectionable ways, but discoved that their power was considerably reduced both by their absence and the growth of the cities.

    Maybe that’s the way to deal with the bikers: form them into some kind of pseudo-patriotic band and ship them off to the Middle East to eliminate the radical Muslims.

    There won’t be any resolution to the wars against the radical Muslims: let them go on forever, because the point of this project is to contain and kill the bikers, not to seize land or power.

    • MichelleRose3

      Apologies, but your analysis of the Crusades is a gross oversimplification. Pope Urban did not send those knights to Palestine in order to “get rid of them.” It may have been a consideration, but the primary goal was to secure open ports and free access to Jerusalem and other cities in Palestine. The Seljuk Empire had banned trade and access to all Europeans largely due to the obnoxious behavior of Dominican and Franciscan monks, who were fond of publicly denouncing Islam and preaching in the the town squares without permission from the Caliph. The Seljuk Muslims exiled the Europeans and as a result, trade with Italy all but ceased. The Byzantine Empire, located at Constantinople (Istanbul) could not fight effectively against the Muslims and their Emperor asked Pope Gregory for assistance. The Franciscans and Dominicans were also instrumental in convincing Urban to issue a declaration of Holy War.

      You also overlook the fact that the majority of the Crusaders were civilians, ordinary people who took up the cross as a way to gain favor with heaven, expunge debts or criminal charges and generally indulge their fantasies of moral superiority. Teutonic and Frankish knights made up only a small percentage of the fighters from Europe. Hundreds of thousands were merely ordinary peasants. Huge numbers of them died on their way to Palestine and most were taken as slaves. On the other hand, the knights did rather well for themselves. A lot of them became very wealthy.

      Saladin did not lead the Muslims until the Third Crusade of 1187-1192. By then, many thousands of Europeans had died or ended their days in captivity and slavery. Yes, he was a military genius, but the damn fool Princes and knights of Europe were simply incompetent, greedy and pig-headed. They literally thought that they owned the world. They were doomed to fail from the beginning.

      • CPAinNewYork

        The crusades started 400 years after the Muslims took over Jerusalem. The Muslims didn’t restrict Christian access to Jerusalem. So, 400 years after the Muslim takeover of Jerusalem, Urban II decides to right some “serious wrongs”, including free access to Jerusalem? The Christians had free access for their and there were no Mideastern ports of any consequence that that needed opening to Italian trade.

        Your rejection of Urban II’s desire to clean up the moral landscape of medieval Europe is typical of those who deny any ethical impulses of the Catholic Church.

        As to the composition of the Crusader forces: This was the late twelfth century. European armies were traditionally composed of peasants possessing varying degrees of military prowess that were raised when dangers arose. Large standing armies of professional soldiers were not the practice, because they were too expensive. The leaders were knights of equally varying degrees of military prowess. But the unpunished rapes, thefts of property, forced labor, etc. was certainly on Urban II’s mind as he formulated his plans for the Crusades.

        As I wrote, the deal was too good for the miscreant knights to pass up: Absolution for a quick (they thought) romp in the Mideast.

        Yes, “the knights did rather well for themselves,” but that’s not a pertinent point in our argument. You’re getting ahead of yourself. The point here is the motivation of Pope Urban II in starting the crusades. You, typical of those with anti-Catholic bias, deny any altruistic impulses on the Church’s part. I believe that Urban II’s motives were not materialistic, as you insist they were.

        • MichelleRose3

          You’re quite right in at least one respect: I utterly reject the notion that Urban’s intention was anything like ethical. Nor was the purpose of the Catholic Church ethical. It was conquest, land, gold, and power. Nothing more. The “Christian” aspects proposed by its namesake were completely lost right about the time of the First Council of Nicaea, where the blood of monks ran in the streets as they slaughtered each other for supremacy.

          I don’t think we’ll be able to agree on much. Apologists such as yourself have difficulty in objectively viewing a belief system in which they have invested so much time and resources. I have no such investment in any particular religion but I can say with relative certainty that Christianity has done more damage to this world than any other organized religion. I include Catholicism, Protestantism and any of its splinter sects. Mind you, the teachings of Jesus strike me as very fine and admirable, but, as always, one good idea can be ruined very quickly by someone attempting to make a buck off it, which is what the Catholic Church has been doing for nearly two thousand years.

          Condemn me if you wish. As I said, your religion is not mine and yes, I do feel quite qualified to judge it and condemn it, considering that any “good” Catholic would judge and condemn me in a heartbeat. Call it a survival characteristic: if someone would like to see me burn in their Hell for who and what I am, my sympathy for their worldview becomes terribly limited.

          • R Michael Maddox

            AGREED, but I will say that it is not only the Catholic religion, I look at ALL religion the way you describe. I do NOT feel that you or anyone else has the right to judge me or you ! When judging someone, you might start by looking in the mirror and seeing if that person looking at you might no be all that “GREAT”!

          • CPAinNewYork

            Why would you excuse the Jews and Muslims from your criticism?

    • R Michael Maddox

      I will not comment on your interpretation of the “Crusades” however, I will say that the 1%rs that I have know for most of my adult life, would kick their asses over there or anywhere else. You may not like what you see in these people, But I know one thing to be TRUE= if America was ever attacked, these 1%rs would be the FIRST to take up arms to DEFEND AMERICA and all it’s ignorant people’s right to judge them as something they don’t like.

      • CPAinNewYork

        You are an agnoramus.

  • 2ThinkN_Do2

    There is not really much if any difference between violent gangs and syndicate, cartels, and some of the other corrupt, less than honest people who dress as so-called normal business people; that go around selling children, women, drugs, guns, stolen vehicles, etc.. Don’t be fooled, our society is not the clean fairy tale design some have floating around in their mind.

  • MichelleRose3

    I wouldn’t call these men “able-bodied.” They’re fat for a reason: they drink huge amounts of alcohol, smoke both tobacco and ganja, eat fatty food (lots of barbecue) and the only workouts they get are working on their choppers. A huge percentage of them are meth users (and makers), which is a sure-fire way to destroy both body and mind. A “healthy biker” is an oxymoron, like “military intelligence” or “jumbo shrimp.”

    They call themselves “One-Percenters” with pride for a very good reason: they don’t fit in anywhere because they’re filled with anger, hatred (mostly of people of color) and they’re so full of testosterone, they’re almost impossible to deal with. Many are quite intelligent, but almost all have learning or cognition difficulties. High school is about the best they can do, not because they aren’t smart, but because they utterly reject discipline and “deferred gratification.” They don’t know how to plan effectively, they have terrible impulse control and they love to fight.

    Outlaws? I’d call them sociopaths because they are demonstrably insane, most of them.

    • Indeed. The kinds of people who would read Return of Kings if reading wasn’t for sissy fags.

  • Asiashooter

    How I lament the bygone days of solid journalism. I’ve read countless stories on the Twin Peaks shootout in the Washington Post, LA Times, San Antonio Express News, Dallas Morning News, AP, Reuters, ect. Few if any offer any real reporting and most defer to the academic “experts” to fill their stories. Whatever happened to the simple basics of Who, What, When, Where, Why and How and What was the dog’s name? (see Gene Lyons on that one.) So here’s what I’d like to know now almost a week after the event.

    1. Who were the clubs, all the clubs, involved in the meeting of the Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents attending the meeting at Twin Peaks?
    a) How many of those clubs are considered 1% groups?
    b) Were any of them Christian or Veterans groups?
    c) What was the purpose of the meeting?
    d) Of the non 1% groups, how many were arrested and how many were found to be
    e) If they were not expecting trouble did they bring their wives and children?
    f) What was the stated agenda of the meeting before hand? I understand these are monthly meetings.
    g) What was the spark that set it off, and I don’t mean a parking dispute or bathroom brawl. WHO WAS NOT INVITED?

    2. Why were the Bandidos there? No one has yet to answer this question.
    a) Was it to enforce their claim to Texas and their bottom rocker claim. Is this just another example of the Hell’s Angels and Mongals dispute over the “California” bottom rocker war that led to a great deal of murder of a decade. If so Texas can
    expect a long ranging war of the same nature. Especially now that blood has been spilled. One of the Bandits favorite saying is “God forgives, Bandidos don’t”.
    b) How many of the dead and wounded are Bandidos or Cossacks, are there any other groups among the dead? How many of the Bandidos killed or wounded had the “Expect No Mercy” patch? (This is important.)

    3. How many of the dead were shot by police?
    a) Why was everyone involved arrested? Did everyone participate in the violence?
    b) Are they being charged collectively or as individuals? I’ve heard claims they maybe charged under RICO, Are they going to charge the veteran’s club the Leathernecks, Christian bikers and other independents under this statute?

    This story is a long, long way from over, both in terms of retaliation and justice. We need to know a lot more about the basics and the journalists we depend on, who I know are being shut out by a lot of the parties involved, need to work this a lot harder.