Many bikers feel they have been discriminated against by businesses or the police. Others say that businesses discriminate against them and their friends by asking them to leave. Ultimately, some of this so-called discrimination is legal, and some is not. Let’s consider, first, what is legal.
In the case of Hessians Motorcycle Club v. J. C. Flanagans (a sports bar), members of the Hessians Motorcycle Club were told, on two separate occasions, that they must remove their patches or “colors” in order to enter the bar. The Hessians sued, claiming discrimination. Flanagans, however, felt that it was a safety hazard. They felt that rival bike gangs would get into a fight if allowed to display their colors. The Flanagans further contend that the rule is the same for all of their clientele, and that the Hessians would have been allowed to continue to wear any of their biking gear, provided it did not show colors. The judge found that the Flanagans followed the law when they asked the bikers to remove their colors or not enter. Since they enforced the same rules with all patrons equally and it was to prevent a safety hazard, it was legal.
Police discrimination against bikers, however, appears to be more of an issue. Some police officers seem to have strong feelings against bikers. Bikers are stopped for no reason or told they must remove their jackets or their colors. Checkpoints have even been set up stopping all bikers to look for violations. Numerous cases have come through the court system. Sometimes the verdicts are clear. For example, it is a clear violation of the first amendment rights of a biker to insist that he remove his colors. Seizures of jackets and patches further violates their rights. Other times police officers argue that their stops are justified. Regardless, it seems clear that some police officers do discriminate against bikers, and that is illegal.
If you have been pulled over, speak calmly with the police officer. Determine the reason for the stop and if you believe it is not just, calmly explain the situation. If the police officer does violate your civil rights by demanding that you remove your jacket, seizing your patches, issuing violations that are inaccurate, or anything else, contact a civil rights attorney. Discrimination is not acceptable under any circumstances.
Change needs to occur. Legislation has been introduced that would require California police officers to undergo training specifically to ensure they don’t pull over motorcyclists unnecessarily. This is certainly a step in the right direction. The Motorcycle Profiling Project, a grassroots organization working to eliminate motorcycle discrimination, is also pushing similar legislation.
We support the rights of all bikers and encourage further training to eliminate discrimination.