The New Jersey State Commission of Investigations recently held public hearings on the Pagan’s Motorcycle Club (PMC) and it was business as usual. 1The NJSCI, in a trend being repeated by government and media sources nationwide, continued the process of eroding and ignoring the 1st Amendment in an attempt to vilify motorcycle clubs, in this instance the PMC due to the club’s alleged rapid growth recently. The actions of the few do not, and should not, dictate policy towards an entire demographic. Yet, that is the exact tactic being employed by the NJSCI by exploiting and sensationalizing the alleged actions of a few members in an attempt to encourage policy condemning the entire organization. That is simply not how the 1st Amendment works.
Same old song and dance
The NJSCI hearing was intended to expose policymakers to the allegedly growing threat presented by the PMC. The NJSCI has no power to prosecute. They do, however, provide guidance to policymakers that directly influence legislation and law. Ignoring the fundamental liberties embodied in the 1st Amendment, the NJSCI presented a familiar narrative echoing a biased and inaccurate stereotype by presenting as evidence actions of individual members in an attempt to condemn all PMC members. Moreover, many of the examples presented have not been subjected to judicial scrutiny or due process. Although no one goes to prison as a direct result, the NJSCI directly influences legislation without the requirement that an individual is innocent until proven guilty.
The false 1% narrative
NJSCI investigative agent Edwin Torres begins by advancing the falsehood that being a 1%’ER is synonymous with being a criminal. This assertion is an attempt to condemn an entire community and constitutionally protected symbol and association.
“Make no mistake. They are gangs”, says Torres. He then breaks into the apocryphal AMA narrative dating back to Hollister, California in 1947 in which the AMA declared that 1% of motorcyclists were not law-abiding citizens. Torres testified that 1%’ERS “wear a patch advertising that they are not law-abiding citizens.”
The assertion is ridiculous to members of the 1% club community. At worst, 1’ERS are advertising rebellion against mainstream society’s rules, not its’ laws. Things like long hair, tattoos, loud motorcycles, and parties.
The truth is that 1% clubs are considered elite among clubs, generally with higher levels of commitment and participation requirements, not criminality requirements. 1% clubs are a lifestyle, not a hobby. The truth is that the vast majority of 1%’ERS are employed, many have families, and don’t have criminal records. The statistics strongly dispute claims of criminality.
NJSCI claims about women are oﬀensive and false
In an attempt to provoke fear in policymakers and the public, NJSCI investigators assert women are abused and mistreated. Nicole McCann, investigative analyst for NJSCI testified, “According to the Pagan Motorcycle Club, women are below dogs. Women are treated like their property … shared sexually among the group. They are typically given as many drugs or drinks as they want.”
This assertion is highly oﬀensive to PMC members and their Ol’ Ladies. One self-proclaimed proud Pagan Ol’ Lady writes to the MPP: “Lower than dogs?!” Come on! My Pagan Ol’Lady sisters are top quality wives, girlfriends, and mothers! My property patch indicates that I’m loved, valued, and cherished by my man. And in return, we honor, love and respect our men.”
Although not as sensational as Hollywood’s version of biker culture, the claims regarding the intrinsic abuse of women are simply not true.
Assertions regarding drug use and inherent criminali