Friday, October 12, 2018

Mongols MC: Members converge downtown for meeting

Palm Springs, California (October 11, 2018) BTN — If you see more police on the streets of Palm Springs this weekend, it's because the Mongols Motorcycle Club is coming to town.

The motorcycle club will hold a membership meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Downtown Palm Springs, prompting police to increase their presence as part of what Palm Springs police Lt. Frank Browning calls "an abundance of caution."

Police wouldn't comment on their plans, but Browning, in a post on the social media site Nextdoor, said the department is expecting several hundred members of the Mongols to hit the streets this weekend.

"We have sought out the assistance of numerous police agencies to ensure everyone’s safety, and security remains a priority," he wrote.

The Mongols have had a contentious relationship with the law and with their rival club, the Hells Angels MC. They are considered an "outlaw" motorcycle club, similar to the Bandidos, Pagans and Hells Angels groups, police say. 

The labels "outlaw" or "one percenter" among motorcycle clubs originates from the time of the 1947 Hollister Riot in Hollister, Calif., after which the American Motorcycle Association sought to distance itself from clubs that participated in violence by issuing a statement claiming that 99 percent of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, while 1 percent were outlaws.

"There's a difference between biker clubs and outlaw clubs," said Thomas Barker, an expert on outlaw motorcycle clubs. "It doesn't necessarily mean they're criminal."

Barker is a former police officer who went on to earn a PhD from Mississippi State University and taught on the subject of organized crime and motorcycle gangs at Eastern Kentucky University for 13 years. 

The label "outlaw" might not be a tell-tale sign that a motorcycle gang is involved in criminal activity, but the Mongols have had plenty of run-ins with the law over the years.
On Jan. 18, the Department of Justice unsealed a 54-count federal indictment against 12 members and three associates of the club's chapter in Clarksville, Tenn., which included charges of racketeering conspiracy and large-scale drug trafficking.

In May 2017, two motorcyclists were gunned down in Riverside. One of the victims, 31-year-old James Duty of Orange, died as a result of the shooting. In a Facebook post, the Riverside Police Department identified the victim, as well as others present at the scene, as members of the Hells Angels, the Mongols' largest rival. The suspect in the fatal shooting, Joshua Herbert, denied affiliation with the Mongols but had the club's name, as well as the "one percenter" logo tattooed on his neck.

"They're the most dangerous motorcycle group in the United States and maybe the world," Barker said, pointing to the group's expansion efforts in Asia and Australia.

Still, Barker said, Palm Springs residents have little to worry about as long as they stay out of the club's way, don't take photos of the members or touch their leather vests.

"Everyday residents don't have anything to worry about," Barker said. "Just leave 'em alone."

Staff at the Hilton in Palm Springs and the neighboring Agua Caliente Spa Resort and Casino said they've had no issues with the group since its members started spending their annual retreat at the Palm Spring hotel in 2013.

"The group itself has come for many years and we've never had any issues with them," said Shannon Anderson, general manager at the Hilton. "They're quite communicative and they're actually one of our best groups."

In previous years, during the gather, the Palm Springs Police Department has arrested several members of the club on felony and misdemeanor warrants, as well as gun-related charges. 

SOURCE: Desert Sun