When Hells Angels bark bigger than bite, bikers get burned


Hells Angels bikers are notorious these days for scaring the crap out of every police force in the country when they announce their visit. We watched as officials panicked over their potential to destroy towns, cause mass chaos and cause crimes left and right.

Lately this group's bark has been much bigger than their bite, partly for their own public relations campaign, some say. But that can lead to problems when police try to watch them a little too closely as they go about their legal and quite normal vacationing activities.

Police were doing all the prep work they could prior to the arrival of the Hells Angels bike gang up near Cloquet. The last thing anyone wanted was a group of biker punks leaving their town in shambles, but you can't deny any excitement from businesses just desperate for some revenue.

While they carry around a pretty scary past, the last rides have been pretty uneventful or featured isolated problems. And as no surprise to most, the visit to northern Minnesota went smooth with no major crimes to report.

That's their mode of public relations, some say.

Julian Sher, the author of the book "Angels of Death," told the Star Tribune the USA Rides "largely public-relations dog-and-pony shows for the bikers."

He said the hype beforehand followed by law abiding visits helps their image.

More from the Star Tribune:

"Their PR machine is as well-oiled as their Harleys," Sher said, noting their high-tech website that allows you to purchase gear ( "The mafia doesn't have a website.

"Nothing much happens at these largely party events, so the bikers turn around and say: 'See, we're just rebels without a cause, lovable rascals and motorcycle enthusiasts,''' Sher said. "It's like the Taliban holding a bake sale and it misses the point of what they're doing when the public and police aren't watching."

But bikers can sometimes pay for that added benefit. One Carlton bar own is pretty pissed off after the police allegedly overreacted to the Hells Angel visit and harassed his customers. He said the police presence was overkill and offended tourists to the area.

More from the Duluth News Tribune:

Tim Rogentine said federal, state and local law enforcement agencies -- even some Canadian Border Services agents -- spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on a "farce" and a "waste of time."

"There was more illegal activity by the police than there was by the Hells Angels," Rogentine said. "The way they harassed these guys wasn't right. All that money, all those [officers], and all they found was one felony?"

Rogentine claims that police were so ridiculous that some visitors left early or stayed in their hotels. He says police pulled over bikers for no reason, harassed them and unnecessarily searched them. They were seen following Hells Angels as they went sightseeing, intimidating riders, and shining spotlights on them from a Blackhawk helicopter.

Police say their heavy presence prevented any crimes.

So is there a price to pay for the back-and-forth media coverage? Apparently so. Pretending to be tough and not following though isn't always the best option.