The National Council of Clubs Addresses Leesburg Bikefest Shooting
The National Council of Clubs (NCOC) issued a Press Statement today addressing the recent shooting that occurred April 29th, 2017, during the annual Bikefest in Leesburg, Florida.
(Florida)- The National Council of Clubs (NCOC) and the Florida Council of Clubs (FLCOC), organizations dedicated to defending the political, legislative and legal interests of the millions of motorcycle riders across America, strongly object to the irresponsible release of prejudicial information by law enforcement- and the subsequent release of this prejudice by some local news outlets- relating to recent events that occurred on April 29th during the annual Bikefest event held in Leesburg, Florida. Attempting to prejudice public perception reinforces unconstitutional behavior targeting not only the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, but all motorcycle clubs generally.
Some news outlets report that there was a shooting in a Circle K parking lot in Leesburg between the Outlaws MC and the Kingsmen MC on April 29th, 2017. News reports say two individuals were shot three times, one Outlaw and one Kingsmen. The Kingsmen member later died from his injuries on May 14th. On Wednesday, May 17th arrest warrants were issued for four members of the Outlaws MC, including the Outlaw that was shot in the arm, leg, and back during the incident. Authorities report that two Outlaws were apprehended that same day. 1
The NCOC and FLCOC have no objection to non-prejudicial and factual reporting. Unfortunately, both law enforcement and the media have chosen to vilify the Outlaws MC and act as judge and jury. Law enforcement, with the help of some media outlets such as the Orlando Sentinal, have painted a one-sided picture, including references to past crimes committed by members of the club that are completely unrelated. 2
There is zero reference to the Outlaws more than half century of irrefutable and legitimate political activism, charity, and community involvement. By unethically connecting factually inaccurate and isolated incidents, negative stereotypes about motorcycle clubs are not only reinforced, they are spread. While this strategy may be effective at creating prejudice, it is also diametrically opposed to constitutional constraints and effectively drowns out the truth about motorcycle clubs.
The truth is yet to be determined, let alone reported. The truth is that all of the details of this incident have not been released and formulating opinions based on prejudicial information is irresponsible and reprehensible. The truth is that isolated incidents are not sufficient to draw broad generalizations about organizations with hundreds of members spread across the United States. Motorcycle clubs, including those clubs labeled organized or criminal gangs by authorities, are 1st Amendment protected associations.
Restrictions solely based on association in a motorcycle club violate the 1st Amendment. Courts agree: There is "no evidence that by merely wearing [1% motorcycle club] “colors,” an individual is "involved in or associated with the alleged violent or criminal activity of other [1% motorcycle club] members. It is a fundamental principle that the government may not impose restrictions on an individual “merely because an individual belong[s] to a group, some members of which committed acts of violence.” In fact, the Supreme Court has long “disapproved governmental action . . . denying rights and privileges solely because of a citizen’s association with an unpopular organization.” Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169, 185-86 (1972).
To impose restrictions on any person "who wears the insignia of [a 1% motorcycle club], without regard to or knowledge of that individual’s specific intent to engage in the alleged violent activities committed by other members, is antithetical to the basic principles enshrined in the First Amendment and repugnant to the fundamental doctrine of personal guilt that is a hallmark of American jurisprudence.3
It is important not to forget the fundamental principle that all people are innocent until proven guilty. It’s also important not to forget that most of the time the entire truth is not being told by law enforcement or the media. Unsubstantiated generalizations about any group of people – including motorcycle clubs – and policies based on these generalizations are dangerous and in direct conflict with the foundational principles of a free society.
Name: Jerry Theophilopoulos
Organization: National Council of Clubs
Address: 1530 Eastlake Ave E, Seattle, WA 98102, United States
For more information, please visit https://councilofclubs.org/
1 See Myrt Price, Arrests made in motorcycle club shooting in Leesburg, police say, WFTV9 ABC, May 17, 2017; Staff
Reporter, Outlaws members arrested in fatal shooting during Bikefest, Daily Commercial, May 17, 2017
2 For an example see Outlaws, Kingsmen motorcycle clubs involved in Leesburg shootout that left 2 injured, records
show, Orlando Sentinal, April 30, 2017.
3 see Coles v. Carlini 162 F.Supp.3d 380 (2015)