The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (Hells Angels) is a worldwide "one-percenter" motorcycle gang with between 2,000 and 2,500 members who belong to over 230 chapters in the U.S. and in 26 foreign countries. The Hells Angels pose a criminal threat on six continents. U.S. law enforcement authorities estimate that the Hells Angels have more than 92 chapters in 27 states with a membership in excess of 800 persons. The Hells Angels are involved in the production, transportation and distribution of marijuana and methamphetamine. Additionally, the Hells Angels are involved in the transportation and distribution of cocaine, hashish, heroin, LSD, ecstasy, PCP and diverted pharmaceuticals. The Hells Angels are also involved in other criminal activity including assault, extortion, homicide, money laundering and motorcycle theft. Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada classify the Angels as one of the "big four" outlaw motorcycle clubs. Members of the organization itself assert that this is a mischaracterization, and state that they are a group of motorcycle enthusiasts who organize social events such as group road trips, fundraisers, parties, and motorcycle rallies.
The Hells Angels official web site attributes the official "death's head" insignia design to Frank Sadilek, past president of the San Francisco Chapter. The colors and shape of the early-style jacket emblem (prior to 1953) were copied from the insignias of the 85th Fighter Squadron and the 552nd Medium Bomber Squadron.
The Hells Angels utilize a system of patches, similar to military medals. Although the specific meaning of each patch is not publicly known, the patches identify specific or significant actions or beliefs of each biker. The official colors of the Hells Angels are red lettering displayed on a white background -- hence the club's nickname "The Red and White". These patches are worn on leather or denim jackets and vests.
Red and white are also used to display the number 81 on many patches, as in "Support 81, Route 81". The 8 and 1 stand for the respective positions in the alphabet of H and A. These are used by friends and supporters of the club, as only full members can wear any Hells Angels imagery.
The rhombus-shaped 'one-percenter' patch is also used, displaying '1%', in red on a white background with a red merrowed border. The term "one-percenter" is a response to the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) comment on the Hollister incident, in which the AMA stated that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens and the last 1% were outlaws.
Most members wear a rectangular patch (again, white background with red letters and a red marrowed border) identifying their respective chapter locations. Another similarly designed patch reads "Hells Angels".
When applicable, members of the club wear a patch denoting their position or rank within the organization. The patch is rectangular, and, similarly to the patches described above, displays a white background with red letters and a red merrowed border. Some examples of the titles used are President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Sergeant at Arms. This patch is usually worn above the 'club location' patch.
Some members also wear a patch with the initials "AFFA", which stands for "Angels Forever; Forever Angels", referring to their lifelong membership in the biker club (i.e., "once a member, always a member").
The book Gangs, written by Tony Thompson (a crime correspondent for The Observer newspaper), states that Stephen Cunningham, a member of the Angels, sported a new patch after he recovered from attempting to set a bomb: two Nazi-style SS lightning bolts below the words 'Filthy Few'. Some law enforcement officials claim that the patch is only awarded to those who have committed, or are prepared to commit, murder on behalf of the club. According to a report from the R. v. Bonner and Lindsay case in 2005 (see related section below), another patch, similar to the 'Filthy Few' patch, is the 'Dequiallo' patch. This patch "signifies that the wearer has fought law enforcement on arrest". There is no common convention as to where the patches are located on the members' jacket/vest.
Hells Angels MC
Established: March 17, 1948 in Fontana, California, United States
Founder: Otto Friedli
Years active: 1948-present
Territory: Chapters in North America, South America, Europe, Russia, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia
Ethnicity: Predominantly White
Membership: 3,600 full-patch members worldwide
Criminal activities: Drug dealing, arms dealing, extortion, prostitution, trafficking in stolen goods
Allies: Aryan Brotherhood, Cali Cartel, Indian Posse, Warlocks and various other biker gangs
Rivals: Bandidos, Mongols, Outlaws and Pagans
See also: Operation Black Biscuit
Hells Angels MC is labeled a Street Gang
Wednesday, Sep. 23 2009
According to a jury and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club are officially a "street gang."
The gang's new label comes as the result of the conviction of one of its members in a Maricopa County Superior Court last week, where jurors were specifically asked if they deemed the Hells Angels a "street gang." Well, they did and convicted 32-year-old Nathaniel Sample of aggravated assault and of acting for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
The conviction stems from a 2008 incident at the Billet Bar in Scottsdale, when Sample and another man allegedly used a beer bottle to beat a man in the head. The beating started after the victim accidentally bumped into Sample and only ended when a woman jumped on the victim to prevent the men from beating him further.
Labeling the group a street gang provides law enforcement with precedent that allows it to more aggressively pursue and prosecute members of the Hells Angels. "This verdict sends a message to all street gangs that their acts of violence and terror will not be tolerated," Andrew Thomas says in a statement.