Hells Angels acting like … well, a bunch of angels :: Washington Confederation of Clubs :: Wear your Patch with Pride

Hells Angels MC BY: TRISTAN SCOTT Montana – ~Hells Angels acting like … well, a bunch of angels~ And all was quiet on the leathern front. Other than a few minor dustups, Missoula’s Friday night engagement with the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club passed without any notable alarums or felonious thuggery. There were no clashes between citizens and police, no beatings or assaults, no high treasons or low vice crimes. On the penultimate evening of the motorcycle club’s USA Run through the Garden City, there was only the ubiquitous rumble of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and the mottled presence of rugged outlaw bikers, whose brotherhood remains veiled in mystique. Even as Missoulians tried glimpsing through the fog of exhaust to espy the finer points of their knavish secret society, they saw mostly leather-entwined hugs and backslaps. The deafening thunder of louder-than-stock V-twin engines roaring to life drew numerous rounds of applause from late-night revelers lining the downtown sidewalks, and police looked on with skeptical relief as the bikers sped out of town without incident. * “We’re on vacation. We didn’t come all this way to get arrested, we came here to have a good time,” said one biker from Omaha, Neb. “And we’re havin’ a good time.” The bikers rode two abreast and occasionally six-or-eight deep through the city center – or lurked outside of bars with a fixed eye on the linear formation of parked motorcycles – as uniformed police strode six-and-seven abreast, nonplussed by the lack of mayhem, but certainly not displeased. “We’re seeing a lot of activity, but not a lot on the negative side,” said Missoula Police Lt. Shawn Paul. “You know, it’s weird because eight years ago they were all in one place downtown, but this year there’s just clusters all over.” Both sides had scant interaction with each another, and the divide was never clearer than during a late-night downtown standoff. As patrons spilled out of bars like the Rhinoceros, Stockman’s and Red’s, a waiting game between police and bikers became the evening’s most visibly dramatic tableau. A wall of authoritative blue assembled along one side of Ryman Street, squaring off against the mob of outlaw black that converged on the other. Unmarked Dodge Chargers blinked idly at smirking Harleys, whose longer-than-stock front forks angled toward the open road. One biker’s radio blasted hip-hop music, and a few young people nodded along to the rhythmic beats. Aside from a pair of skirmishes – one that came to blows between an Angel and an intoxicated local before police intervened – and the occasional stare-down or louder-than-normal-bar-shouting argument, the night returned seamlessly to quiet as pods of bikers ripped out of town on Broadway and toward Marshall Mountain, where the club is camped through Sunday. Bystanders recorded the scene on cell phone video cameras, laughing and whooping loudly as the engines revved, but dispersed willingly at the show’s conclusion. Headlamped bicyclists merged with headlighted Harleys during the downtown exodus, coursing away from the city center like a gasoline-rainbowed puddle draining from a bilge. And then the asphalt cooled. A rickshaw driver named Jeremy was unamused as he unharnessed his rig and shook a sweat-soaked T-shirt. “I had hardly any business,” he said. “I guess none of them realized that it might have been a good idea to give a lady a ride.” But judging from the number of women who obligingly accepted rides on the backs of Harleys, the alluring Angels didn’t need any help. Skye Berns found himself enjoying the late-evening activities that prevailed during downtown Missoula’s First Friday, sipping shiraz from a plastic cup. But Berns had a ringside seat to the downtown chaos that ensued in 2000. That was during the Hells Angels’ last run through Missoula, when police unleashed a nebulous cloud of pepper spray on middle-age citizens and Rainbow Family hippies alike. Berns caught a blast to the face, and some of the stuff covered his pantlegs as a cadre of police outfitted in riot gear marched dozens of people across the Higgins Avenue bridge. “My pants got Maced so I had to take them off,” Berns recalled. “I was wearing boxer shorts, so it wasn’t all that sexy.” Although the police presence downtown has been far from scarce this week, local residents seemed unaffected by it, and appeared less drawn to the bikers this go-round. “I honestly think that part of their mystique from last time has worn off,” said Missoula Police Sgt. Scott Hoffman. “Last time we had a lot of sightseers, and this time they’re kind of saying, ‘Been there, done that.’ “We’re getting information that Stock(man)s is the bar, but then we get them all over the place. It’s hard to say where they are because they have so many different things planned,” he said. Some 20 miles east of town, at the Rock Creek Lodge, attendees of the Testicle Festival imbibed ferociously. Although authorities thought the event would appeal to the Angels during their run, members of the club maintained almost no presence at all. Perhaps a dozen Hells Angels sat on the outskirts of the crowd, occasionally posing for photographs with scantily clad women. “I think the Hells Angels just kind of said, ” ‘Forget the Testicle Festival,’ ” said probation officer Dave Sonju, who was patrolling downtown Missoula with police officers. Festival organizer and lodge co-owner Matt Powers was nonetheless pleased with the turnout, and appeared confident that there would be no flashpoint on his watch, as was predicted by some law enforcement officials. At least one federal agent was in attendance at Rock Creek Lodge, festooned in Mardi Gras beads and blending in with the crowd. At the nearby Clinton Rural Fire Station, Undersheriff Jerry Crego sat inside the Missoula County command post – an RV camper outfitted with maps and radios. On Thursday, a pair of Hells Angels could be seen idling on the shoulder of the interstate, shooting pictures of the command post, inside of which the undercover agent spoke with Crego about secret matters. “They’re watching us and we’re watching them,” Crego said. “If we can make it through another night like tonight, we’ll be very pleased,” Hoffman said.

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