Black bikers push back against ‘gang’ tag after SUV clash

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In the days since a violent incident on a New York City highway left one man badly beaten and another paralyzed, bikers have gotten a lot of bad press. As authorities sort through the details of that tragic day, many bikers are speaking up to defend their clubs, culture and love for riding.

Cameras were rolling as conflict erupted between a group of bikers and the driver of an SUV on the Henry Hudson Parkway a few short weeks ago. Alexian Lien, 33, was reportedly out for a Sunday drive with his wife and two-year-old when witnesses say his Range Rover bumped the rear tire of one in a group of 30 bikers taking part in a bike rally dubbed the “Hollywood Stuntz.”

The motorcyclist was knocked to the ground, causing the group to stop around Lien’s vehicle and block the highway. There’s some contention over what happens next. In the video, the scene seems to come to a standstill for nearly 30 seconds. It’s during this time that police say members of the bike group began attacking the SUV. Suddenly, the vehicle takes off, barreling through the crowd of motorcycles and running over another biker, 32-year-old Jeremiah Edwin Mieses.

A chase ensued up the highway, ending with Lien being dragged from his SUV by members of the group and severely beaten. Mieses, the biker run over, is currently hospitalized. His legs were broken in the incident and he has spine injuries that will leave him paralyzed, his wife told reporters. Lien’s wife, Rosalyn Ng, released a statement, saying the couple feared for their lives and her husband had no choice but to speed away in the manner he did.

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The story quickly became headline news with its imagery of dangerous bikers, a family in peril and an accompanying video. Many outlets incorrectly identified the disparate group of bikers as the “Hollywood Stuntz” motorcycle gang. The New York Daily News described them as a “wild pack of motorcyclists.” The Post dubbed them “motorcycle thugs” and compared them to the infamous Hells Angels bikers that became synonymous with murder, violence and crime in the 1960s.

It’s a perception planted firmly in the public imagination since the late 1940s, when the earliest motorcycle clubs were first created. At the same time, outlaw motorcycle gangs like the Hells Angels and Mongols were also formed. These groups, according to definition by the U.S. Department of Justice, “are organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises. OMGs are highly structured criminal organizations whose members engage in criminal activities such as violent crime, weapons trafficking, and drug trafficking.”

“I think that motorcycle clubs today get a bad rap whether it’s by negative depictions in the media or in shows like Sons of Anarchy,” says Andre “Gunny” Green, a member of the Savage Skulls Motorcycle Club, a black Harley-Davidson ambassador and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. “We are not a ‘gang.’ We are a brotherhood of like-minded individuals. In most cases, we just want to ride, enjoy the open road and be left the f**k alone.”

Also See: Bikers rally at Manhattan hospital after SUV dispute

Green says his prayers go out to everyone involved in the incident, that he can understand Lien’s actions but also can’t help but question how he would respond to seeing one of his “brothers” run over then watching the vehicle flee.

“I must say that as a biker I was furious looking at the video. I can empathize with the plight of being on the road and having some [driver] try to push their way into a lane or even a formation,” says Green. “I don’t think motorist understand that their actions have dire and sometimes deadly results when on the road with bikers. Most of us just want to go home in one piece without worrying about who almost took our life that day and when we ride it’s a daily reminder of what we deal with on these streets. On the same token as bikers you can’t ride like you own the streets because some guy in a thousand pound vehicle may not like it and decide he’s going to use his car as a bowling ball and us bikers are the pins.”

Throughout social media, there has been overwhelmingly negative sentiment expressed toward bikers in response to the incident. In one top-rated comment on a YouTube video of a Hollywood Stuntz event last year, one person writes, “I think we need our very own Range Rover gang. One who specializes on monster trucking these fa***ts to paralysis. Jeremiah Mieses was just the beginning.”

And Wednesday, both the Democratic and Republican candidates for mayor vowed to crack down on bikers.

“It’s unacceptable to have motorcyclists effectively take over highways inappropriately and illegally. It’s not appropriate for them to make everyone drive slower so they can do their stunts,” said Democrat Bill de Blasio. His Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, took the condemnation a step further saying there was no place in the city for “motorcycle wilding,” borrowing a term that was used in the 1989 case where five youths were wrongfully convicted of going on a rampage that ended with the rape of a woman in Central Park.

Ultimately, Green and other motorcycle enthusiast across the country are hoping to make a clear distinction in the public’s mind between motorcycle clubs and the images of roving gangs conjured up by this recent event.

“Not all bikers are so reckless and not all drivers are so innocent on the road,” he says. “Sometimes the best way to stay out of danger is to just stay out of danger and, hopefully, the lesson learned from this incident is to watch out for your fellow motorist whether they be on two, four, 17 or even 18 wheels.”

Follow Donovan X. Ramsey at @iDXR