Flashback Friday: 'Angels not to be taken lightly'
This story appeared in the July 24, 2009 issue of the Lake County News-Chronicle. The Hells Angels motorcycle club visited northeastern Minnesota for a rally in 2009. Despite numerous warnings from law enforcement agencies and other groups, there was almost no trouble during their visit. A taskforce spoke to business owners in Two Harbors before the event with some serious warnings.
Some Hells Angels are white supremacists who disrespect women and receive merit badges for fighting with police.
That was the message members of a drug and gang taskforce delivered to the Waterfront Business District meeting in Two Harbors this week.
The taskforce told the group that, while motorcycle gangs should not be painted with a wide brush, community members need to be aware that Hells Angels is an organized criminal entity that generates money through drug sales and other illegal activities.
Motorcycles are valued more than women and many of its members are convicted felons, yet the group spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on public relations to present itself as a social group of bikers, the business district group was told.
Though the taskforce urged residents not to panic and to remember that “not all bikers are bad,” it stressed that the Angels have a history of conflict with law enforcement.
Two Harbors Mayor Randy Bolen said he was taking the warnings onboard in preparation for the visit by the renegade motorcycle gang between July 29 and Aug. 2. While the Hells Angels rally will be based in Cloquet, the group is expected to take day trips up the North Shore.
“I am particularly concerned for our bar operators and am not taking that aspect of this lightly,” Bolen said. “I think we need to take the advice of law enforcement and err on the side of caution. Anyone who anticipates trouble of any kind should call for help.”
Bolen said he believed the group would be orderly while in the area and would be warmly welcomed by the business community.
“We’re going to hope for the best, and depend on business owners to make smart decisions and call on law enforcement instead of trying to resolve any problems themselves,” he said.
Missoula, Mont. law enforcement reported few incidents at last year’s rally, though the Angels ’ traditional pre-Sturgis rally in Colorado in 1996 resulted in a murder. As well, three people were killed and many others stabbed, beaten and shot in a brawl with rival gang members at its Laughlin River Run in 2002.
Still, Bolen said he was optimistic that the club’s visit could go smoothly and be an economic boon to the area.
“We will welcome this group and be aware,” he said. “If we are all smart about this the club can have a good visit and we can benefit economically.”
Area law enforcement authorities have said they will step up patrols and staff squad cars with additional officers during the rally.