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Hells Angels

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Motorcycles

Hells Angels
Motorcycle Club

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Wikipedia: Hells Angels
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History

The following section is an excerpt from Wikipedia's Hells Angels page on 27 March 2020, text available via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) is a worldwide one-percenter motorcycle club whose members typically ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

In May 2019, a court in Utrecht issued a verdict that made the Netherlands the first country to completely ban the Hells Angels; other countries such as Germany had banned local chapters, but never before the entire club. The United States Department of Justice considers the club to be an organized crime syndicate. In the United States and Canada, the Hells Angels are incorporated as the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation. Common nicknames for the club are the "H.A.", "Red & White", "HAMC" and "81".

The Hells Angels were originally started by American World War II immigrants, the Bishop family, on March 17 of 1948 in Fontana, California; shortly after which, they subsumed an amalgamation of former members of other motorcycle clubs, such as the Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington, which had been formed by veterans of the war. If the Hells Angels' own website is to be believed, the received suggestion is unfounded that the former troops to join the club included misfits and malcontents. The website also notes that the name was first suggested by an associate of the founders named Arvid Olsen, who had served in the "Hell's Angels" squadron of the Flying Tigers in China during World War II. It is at least clear that the name was inspired by the tradition from World Wars I and II whereby the Americans gave their squadrons fierce, death-defying titles; an example of this lies in one of the three P-40 squadrons of Flying Tigers fielded in Burma and China, which was dubbed "Hell's Angels". In 1930, the Howard Hughes film Hell's Angels showcased extraordinary and dangerous feats of aviation, and it is believed that the World War II groups who used that name based it on the film.

Some of the early history of the HAMC is not clear, and accounts differ. According to Ralph "Sonny" Barger, founder of the Oakland charter, early charters of the club were founded in San Francisco, Gardena, Fontana, Oakland and elsewhere, with the members usually being unaware that there were other clubs. One of the lesser-known clubs existed in North Chino/South Pomona, in the late 1960s.

Other sources claim that the Hells Angels in San Francisco were organized in 1953 by Rocky Graves, a Hells Angel member from San Bernardino ("Berdoo"), implying that the "Frisco" Hells Angels were very much aware of their forebears. The "Frisco" Hells Angels were reorganized in 1955 with thirteen charter members, Frank Sadilek serving as President, and using the smaller, original logo. The Oakland charter, at the time headed by Barger, used a larger version of the "Death's Head" patch nicknamed the "Barger Larger", which was first used in 1959. It later became the club standard.

The Hells Angels are often depicted in semi-mythical romantic fashion like the 19th-century James–Younger Gang: free-spirited, iconic, bound by brotherhood and loyalty. At other times, such as in the 1966 Roger Corman film The Wild Angels, they are depicted as violent and nihilistic, little more than a violent criminal gang and a scourge on society.

The club became prominent within, and established its notoriety as part of the 1960s counterculture movement in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury scene, playing a part at many of the movement's seminal events. Members were directly connected to many of the counterculture's primary leaders, such as Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, Allen Ginsberg, Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, Timothy Leary, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Mick Farren and Tom Wolfe. Writing a book about the club launched the career of "Gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

In 1973, members from several branches of the organization protested at an Environmental Protection Agency hearing about a proposed transportation plan that included restrictions on motorcycle use and sales to get California to meet the new Clean Air Act standards.



Documents

DateDocument Name & DetailsDocuments
10 October 2017
filing date
United States of America v. Jonathan Joseph Nelson, Raymond Michael Foakes, Russell Allen Lyles, Jr. et al.
Indictment
United States District Court, Northern District of California, San Francisco Division

PDF
- 1.9MB - 17 pages


Article Index

DateArticleAuthor/Source
30 June 2001True story of Jerry Garcia and the Hells AngelsJohn Clark
6 April 2007Forty Hells Angels locations in Canada raided by policeWikinews
29 September 2011Thirty-Six Defendants with Ties to Hells Angels Motorcycle Club Charged in Federal Drug Conspiracy InvestigationFBI San Diego Division
18 October 2011San Diego Police Arrest Hells Angels Motorcycle Club Associate Charged in Federal Drug Conspiracy InvestigationFBI San Diego Division
23 February 2012Mongols Motorcycle Gang Member Convicted of Murdering President of San Francisco Hells AngelsU.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of California
27 April 2012Hells Angel Sentenced to 15 Years in Federal Prison on Firearm ChargeU.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Rhode Island
15 May 2012Mongols Motorcycle Gang Member Sentenced to Life in Prison for Murdering President of San Francisco Hells AngelsU.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of California
3 December 2012Hells Angels Sergeant at Arms Sentenced to Over 21 YearsU.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of California
4 January 2013Hells Angels Member Diamond Dan Bifield Pleads Guilty to Federal Racketeering ConspiracyU.S. Attorney’s Office, District of South Carolina
25 March 2013Drug Trafficker Linked to Hells Angels Sentenced to 21 YearsU.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of California
13 February 2015Leader of Salem Hells Angels Pleads Guilty to Federal Crimes in Connection with Brutal AssaultU.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Massachusetts
6 July 2015Former Hell’s Angels Associate Pleads GuiltyU.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of New York
8 February 2016Former Hell’s Angels Associate Sentenced For Destroying EvidenceU.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of New York
7 March 2016Major Investigation Involving Hells Angels Concludes With Conviction Of Hells Angels PresidentU.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of New York
24 May 2016Rochester Hell’s Angel Sentenced For Baseball Bat BeatingU.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of New York
22 September 2017Two Bandidos Plead Guilty to Federal Charges in Connection with the Murder of Hells Angel Anthony Benesh in 2006U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Texas
25 September 2017Third Bandido Pleads Guilty to Federal Charge in Connection with the Murder of Hells Angel Anthony Benesh in 2006U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Texas
27 September 2017Fourth Bandido Pleads Guilty to Federal Charge in Connection with the Murder of Hells Angel Anthony Benesh in 2006U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Texas
20 November 2017Members Of Sonoma Motorcycle Gang Charged With Murder, Racketeering Conspiracy, And Related Crimes U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of California
21 November 2017FBI, CHP, Santa Rosa Police Department Seek Information on Wanted Fugitive FBI San Francisco
23 January 2018Lexington County Hells Angel Pleads Guilty to Murder for Hire of Ex-WifeU.S. Attorney’s Office, District of South Carolina
23 February 2018FBI Seeks Fugitive Wanted in Connection with an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang InvestigationFBI New York
25 April 2018Lexington County Hells Angel Sentenced to the Statutory Maximum of 10 years in prison for Murder for Hire of PlotU.S. Attorney’s Office, District of South Carolina
14 May 2019Hells Angels "Full Patch" Member Facing 5-40 Years in Prison on Drug Trafficking, Firearm ChargesU.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Rhode Island
25 June 2019President of Modesto Hells Angels Chapter Among Four Defendants Charged in Drug ConspiracyU.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California
30 October 2019Anchorage Hells Angel and Wife Sentenced to Federal Prison for Drug TraffickingU.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Alaska


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