Biker gangs. As they say, 99 percent of motorcyclists are just good people letting their hair blow in the wind atop shiny bikes, the other 1 percent are antisocial barbarians.
Hells Angels like to be known as one percenters.
This past weekend’s shootout between the Argentina chapter of Hells Angels and Los Tehuelches, which saw 150 bullets fired and four seriously injured, has brought biker gangs to the forefront of Argentine news. Witnesses say gang members were firing their weapons akimbo, reminiscent of an LA turf war but just 70km West of the Argentine capital. The hospitals where the injured are being kept are being surrounded by heavy security. Flare ups of this sort are rare, but they often come in spates — revenge killings are not unheard of.
To answer your every burning question — Who? What? How? Why? And did they have facial tattoos? — The Bubble delves into the morbid world of Argentina’s Hells Angels.
First, here’s some basic background on the more sordid type of biker gang you may encounter. Apparently there’s more to it than your wife leaving you, some serious pent-up aggression and shrunken genitals. There’s also having a bitchin’ moniker to ride under as you and the dudes get down to the vape store to get some sweet new rigs. Take, for example, the Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington or Australia’s fearsome Mobshitters. Their names will tell you more about them than I even need to, but joking aside, many of these one percenters are serious criminals involved in organized drug smuggling, gangland warfare and pimping.
Perhaps the most notorious of all is The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, which hails from California where it was set up in 1948 as an amalgamation of former members of other gangs. It was named after the 1930 Howard Hughes’ film, which also gave its name to US flying squadrons in WWII. It’s officially declared an organized crime syndicate by the US Department of Justice due to its involvement in racketeering, contract killing, drug smuggling and arms trafficking. It’s become a worldwide phenomenon since its inception and it’s a subculture which has spread far and wide, with crime a defining part of its identity.
The gangs are, more often than not, exclusive and split along racial lines. Women are usually not allowed to join, and even if they are it’s usually for a subservient role in the gang, working the streets either selling drugs or prostituting themselves. Women are essentially property of the gang.
With many of their chosen political movements quashed due to their inherent racism, masking their politics behind tattoos and leather has worked a treat for Hells Angels — romanticized by film and television, they draw working class men who have even the slightest affinity for bikes.
The requirements for membership include a valid driver’s license, a large bike and “the right combination of personal qualities” ie. male genitalia and white skin. Their other policies include excluding child molesters and those who’ve applied for a role in the police force. You’re looking at one hell of a Venn diagram here.
One face in Argentina’s chapter of the Hells Angels may be recognizable for some: Dani Death. Or as his mother knows him, Dani Díaz León.
He’s the leader of the Argentine division, a professional bodyguard and also a reality TV star. “La Muerte,” as he is known, rose to prominence for apparently doing stellar jobs protecting clients such as Mick Jagger, Madonna, Claudia Schiffer, Robert Downey, Jr., Lionel Messi and Kate Moss, but after being shot seven times this weekend, he is being hospitalized. And, of course, he’s also under arrest.
Despite the Angels’ relatively low profile in Argentina, Dani is not one to hide. In 2014, there was a meet up of Hells Angels in the City of Buenos Aires with some 2,000 participants convoying through the neighborhoods of Palermo, Las Cañitas, San Telmo and Microcentro.
This was quite an occasion because the group tends not to be so ostentatious on the whole due to, you know, the purported criminal activity, but the aforementioned Dani Death likes to keep us updated on his Instagram account.
Nor was this weekend’s incident the first time bikers hit the headlines in Argentina. In 2011, Paul Eischeid, a Hells Angels member from the state of Iowa in the US, was arrested in San Isidro, Greater Buenos Aires Area after eight years on the run following the murder of a woman who insulted the gang in Arizona.
Being a stockbroker, he was placed under house arrest as it was believed there was a low risk of flight, but Eischeid removed his electronic tracker and made off for Argentina, where he shaved his head and grew a beard.
All in all, while the whole thing might sound like something straight out of Grand Theft Auto, biker gangs, though relatively small in number and often quite peaceful, are prone to violent episodes between warring factions – but let’s hope it’s generally confined to Sons of Anarchy.