Thousands of bikers gather to protest the coming of Big Brother and the Helmet Laws

More than 10,000 bikers gathered at Federal buildings across the nation June 25, to protest mandatory helmet laws.


Despite media-suggested fears of trouble, none of the rallies reported even the slightest amount.


There had been a lot of organizations involved in setting the rallies up. They ranged from super-straight-arrow groups like the Texas Road Riders Association, the closet-weirdos at Road Rider Magazine, elements of the American Motorcycle Association, through groups like the Modified Motorcycle Association and the assorted ABATEs, to full-scale outlaw clubs like the Angels and the Connecticut-based Huns. An enormous amount of work was done by Bob Bitchin' and Biker News. Somehow, they even allowed the odd sorts at this magazine to get involved - even though someone commented that this was, indeed, a couple of feet below the bottom of the barrel.

Three months before, the idea had gotten started.


It was a product of the inevitable political sophistication of bikers.


Someone finally discovered exactly why all those states had helmet laws — and why they so adamantly opposed repealing them.


It seems that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has this lovely model traffic code. And the various states must have traffic codes roughly conforming to this model traffic code, or the NHTSA and the Department of Transportation refuses to allow any of the Federal highway funds to go to the state.


Lovely sort of blackmail.


Especially when this model traffic code has never been voted on by any legislator or any group of voters.


It is completely the creation of bureaucrats. It is, of course, undemocratic in the extreme.

Needless to say, this code contains a mandatory helmet law, largely the result of the lying and forging. done by Uncle Tom Lew Buchanan, who in years to come may be regarded as the bikers' equivalent of Vidkun Quisling or Marshal Petain.


Several states have attempted to repeal the helmet bill, only to be hit by the Washington Blackjack.


The NHTSA almost repealed the helmet section some months ago, as reported in CHOPPERS, July. And they've promised to have another hearing.


In the interim, two other measures have been introduced in the House of Representatives. One is HR3869, authored by by Representative McKinney (Connecticut), the second is HR6211, from Representative Steiger (Arizona). Both measures prohibit the NHTSA from refusing highway funds to states without a helmet bill. Oklahoma has already repealed their helmet bill, and Minnesota reportedly is almost ready to get rid of theirs. Neither bill had been set for a vote when we went to press.

So, with all these things pending, it seemed like a good idea to show a little strength.


No one knows how many hours were put in by a lot of people and a lot of organizations. We don't even pretend to have most of their names.


An interesting note — for the first time, an attempt was made to approach not only bikers, but the media as well. Response from both was great.

And so the day came up in Los Angeles.


Peeled out of bed, bolted lady and self to motorcycle with two cameras.


Met Bob Bitchin' (a chore in itself) at 8 a.m., with a mouth tasting like a yak with dysentery had spent a week hibernating under my second molar.


Everybody knows that bikers are never on time, anywhere, for anything.


At 8:30 (meeting time 10 a.m.) the parking lot in Griffith Park (Los Angeles' biggest municipal park) was crowded with sleepy and hungover motorcyclists. Somebody commented that these were the guys who had been drinking all night - those who crashed would be along in a bit.


Stand around, and talk. Talk bikes, talk helmets.


The idea was:


"Let Those Who Ride Decide."


Helmet laws do nothing to make a motorcycle or rider safer to his surroundings (as a matter of fact, there is a growing body of evidence indicating the opposite), so why not let a rider decide for himself whether he wants to wear a pot?


California doesn't have a helmet law, so the demonstration in L.A. was in support of the other states, and of the two House of Representatives bills.


Dresser riders, outlaws, a couple of trailbikes, cafe freaks and lots of just plain old motorcycle riders wandered in.


Some came in pack formation from previous assembly points. The were neatly ushered into long lines waiting for the go-sign.


By ten in the morning, by rough estimate (count wheels and divide by two, there were at least 2700 motorcycles in the parking lot.

A little later, it was Start You Engine time. The demonstration had originally been scheduled to rur through city streets to the Federal building, with police support. However, after a major press conference on Friday, the cops figured that this would totally flip traffic out. It would've. So the route was rescheduled for the freeway.


Coordination was by L.A. County Sheriff's Department, California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles Police Department. No hassles, no trouble. Funny note - the Sheriffs had evidently (probably through their always-inaccurate and generally-hilarious Intelligence Division) figured that everybody was headed for The Rock Store, notorious hangout for beer drinkers and cafe freaks. The result was a huge task force of cops at the Rock Store. All to dive on three surprised freaks on Yamaha 350s.


Meanwhile, everybody swooped in two more or less neat columns onto the freeway.


Cops escorted the column.


Tourists and citizens gaped.


Bikers smiled.


And so to the Federal building, where everybody dismounted and wandered around. Someone either an agent provocateur (hello, dere, Internal Intelligence) or a psychopath - tried to start trouble.


He was rapidly ignored, and then escorted politely and nonviolently out.


Assemblyman Paul Carpenter spoke — a man who seems interested in passing the best laws possible. He was well received.


Some of the MMA gents spoke, and Bob Bitchin' from Biker News talked.


Very peaceable thing. Thanks to the MMA in general for a good job, to the MMA area reps who really busted tail, and to Carl Cruz, and Mike Trujillo in particular. Also to Bob Bitchin' and Biker News.

We haven't as yet received reports from all the other states that participated (if you have any information, drop a line and we'll run your letter so everybody connected will hopefully get credit), but this is what we have heard so far:


SOUTH CAROLINA: This was the only state we've heard of where things went badly. A gentleman identified only as Paul really busted his butt getting things together, which included alerting the media. The "concerned" bikers of Charlotte didn't bother to show up, which left Paul with four friends and about 17 somewhat dejected reporters.


HAWAII: Pat Thiele got about 200 bikers to the Honolulu Federal Building, for a very peaceful rally.


FLORIDA: In Palm Beach, a real estate developer named Christian Johannsen put quite a few dollars to promoting the rally. He got 800-odd motorcycles for his protest.


MASSACHUSETTS: The Boston ople had a great rally, with at ast 1200 people showing up. The Boston media - long noted for journalistic prejudice and irresponsibility - wrote up the event with comments like, "Who needs constituents like these?" and so forth. Shades of the old peace movement. This was, by the way, the only reported media lack of responsibility - in Los Angeles, for example, all television stations and papers covered the rally sympathetically.


NEW YORK: New York seems plagued with a gentleman named Jed Tranquill - who bears little resemblance to his name. The 600-some bikers demonstrated in the city, a demonstration which included burning a helmet on the building steps, and large signs saying helmet laws suck. All very juvenile, and guaranteed to alienate more people than they attracted. This is, by the way, Mr. Tranquill's second number - when the helmet issue failed before the NHTSA's committee, he reportedly got more than vocal about them. It is suggested that Mr. Tranquill should be encouraged to think about his name.


A lot of the riders didn't wear helmets to the protest, and the police wrote no tickets. It was sponsored by the New York Motorcycle Rights Organization.


VIRGINIA: A large contingent, led by Fuzzy Davy of ABATE, went to the Washington demonstration, about which we have heard nothing.


ARIZONA: Phoenix had about 1200 bikes demonstrating.


Other demonstrations included one in northern California and a third (besides the L.A. one) in San Diego.


It was a quiet, responsible show, by voters who happened to ride motorcycles and wanted to illustrate their belief that, whether or not they wear a helmet:



By Christopher Bunch, M.A.








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