The past decade Europe has seen an explosive growth in the number of motorcycle gangs (MCs), many of which are listed as Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs), sometimes referred to as ‘One Percenters’. The One Percenters are more narrowly defined by ATF as (among other things) any group of motorcyclists whose activities bring them and their club into repeated and serious conflict with society and the law. These definitions assume that such clubs are bands of motorcyclists. In Europe, this is often no longer the case. They are at best hybrid gangs, and often – like the Black Jackets MC – glorified streetgangs that are cloaked in the colours of an MC, because the MC is a proven succesful businessmodel.
It’s all about the money –
The FBI defines OMGs as organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises. The purpose of an enterprise is to make money, and any company set up with an eye to maximizing profits and minimizing risks will seek an organizational model so as best to enable and support its aims. The OMG offers bands of criminals a successful business model that will do just that outside and sometimes inside of regular societal frameworks for conducting business.
Or is it?
Where the rapid expansion of the motorcycle gangs is in itself cause for concern, the situation has been aggravated by the emergence of gangs that either had a political agenda from the start or that have become politically sensitized. Consisting mainly of young men from ethnic minorities and socially marginalized groups such as travellers, these MC-look-a-likes have evolved from goon squads into serious transnational criminal networks.
In Global Cities – Global Gangs, John Hagedorn states that gangs have become institutionalized in social environments, are globalized and can be found in increasingly globalized urban spaces. Crucially in the context of the developments in the European MC-scene, according to Hagedorn, gangs are ‘social actors’ whose identies are formed by (perceived) identity-based repression, participation in the underground economy, and constructions of gender. Where the goon squads were basically first generation streetgangs – and some OMG puppet clubs still are – the new MCs are at least second generation gangs, and some of them have grown into third generation ganghood. The issue with these new style European MCs is that some of those which may still be characterized as second generation gangs, have a political edge to them. Such motorcycle gangs transform into true outlaw motorcyclegangs: gangs that incorporate resistance to mainstream society and become social actors outside society’s legal framework.
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