Road Duels: How Dangerous Are Biker Gangs?

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violence between rockers

Duel of enemy gangs on the street in Bern: how dangerous and criminal are biker gangs?

They throw bottles and stones at each other, fight in front of the courtroom: violent riots break out in the city of Bern around a trial against members of rival biker gangs. Now, there are considerations for moving the process to another location.

Members of Bandidos stand in front of the courthouse in Bern.

Image: Keystone (Bern, May 30, 2022)

A trial against 22 members of hostile rock gangs began on Monday at the Amtshaus Regional Court in Bern. Since then, the city has been in a state of emergency. On Tuesday morning, Hells Angels and Bandidos supporters battled outside the courthouse. The canton of Bern police responded with rubber bullets and took several people away.

A hundred members of the Hells Angels and Bandidos from Switzerland and all over Europe showed up on Monday to support the accused. The support consisted, among other things, of the gangs throwing bottles and rocks at each other. Thanks to the deployment of numerous emergency services, the Bernese cantonal police managed to thwart a direct confrontation. They used water cannons, rubber shot, pepper spray and service dogs. Several roads have been temporarily closed.

How is it that the city of Bern unwittingly turns into a stage where biker gangs, dressed in “rocker uniforms”, stage their aggressive hostilities? The most important questions and answers.

1. What is the process?

In the dock, 22 members of motorcycle gangs are fighting. The prosecution accuses two people of attempted murder, a rocker of serious bodily injury, the rest of scuffles and accomplices. The verdict is expected at the end of June. 15 of the 22 defendants are members of the Bandidos, the rest belong to the Hells Angels and their Broncos friends. The reason for the Rocker process is a violent confrontation that took place in May 2019 in Belp in the canton of Bern.

2. What happened in Belp?

The Bandidos, originally from the United States, wanted to found a Swiss branch in Belp in 2019. The Hells Angels and their Broncos allies found out. About 30 of them went to the club’s designated location. The altercation broke out around 6 p.m. Among other things, the members of the Bandidos used a pistol as a percussion instrument and fired several times in the air. During the shooting in the Wild West, a bullet hit a member of the Hells Angels, who then had to undergo emergency surgery. A member of the Bronco was then rammed in the back with a knife. The Bandidos had heard of the upcoming arrival of the “Hell Angels” and the Broncos and were preparing for it in a martial way.

3. Why do motorcycle gangs fight?

The Hells Angels were formed in the USA in 1948 and have had a branch in Switzerland since 1970. Here they are the top dogs among motorcycle rockers. According to an unwritten law, if a rock club wants to establish itself in Switzerland, it needs the blessing of the Hells Angels. The Bandidos defied this rule. Hence the riot and ultimately the riot scenes that are taking place in Bern these days. The famous Zurich lawyer Valentin Landmann is close to the Hells Angels. He told the Tages-Anzeiger that foreign newcomers were responsible for the escalation: “There has been peace on the scene in Switzerland for fifty years. Now some circles want to import the war to us from abroad.”

4. How dangerous and criminal are motorcycle gangs?

The gangs first pose a threat to their own milieu. The Federal Office of Police (Fedpol) is aware of a single-digit number of criminally relevant incidents that can be attributed to the rivalry between the Hells Angels and the Bandidos. It can also be uncomfortable for uninvolved third parties. This reveals a scene from Far West that took place in a bustling bar in Geneva the weekend before last. A member of the Hells Angels and a member of Bandido shot each other. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Territory wars and commercial interests are at the root of the conflict, according to Romandie radio and television RTS. Fedpol writes: “The incident in Geneva illustrates the potential for violence that exists between these rival biker groups.”

In the past, members of rock bands based in this country have been implicated in violent crimes and property crimes, for example, drug offenses and violations of the weapons law. “Basically, it can be said that in Switzerland, too, there is serious potential for conflict in the scene of rockers and similar bands,” writes Fedpol. The presence of several rival groups has repeatedly led to tensions and attacks in recent years. So far, no member of a biker gang has been convicted in Switzerland for participating in a criminal organization.

Rock gangs sometimes fight more violently abroad than in Switzerland. Territorial claims and commercial interests are often at stake. In Germany and the Netherlands in particular, several rock bands have been classified as criminal organizations and banned in recent years.

5. How is the trial in Bern going?

Reto Nause, director of security for the city of Bern, describes the fact that passers-by sometimes have to weave their way between biker gangs in the city center of Bern as unacceptable. He raised the possibility of moving the court hearing to another location on Swiss radio and television. Corresponding discussions are apparently underway.

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