subtitle: Biker History In The Making
by K. Randall "Bandit" Ball
Here's one that will peel the chrome off your jockey shift. I write
this wild history for the fun of it and entertainment, but this
story jabs at the heart of biker history. I've known Rogue since
'72. You may be surprised to find him sitting next to you at the
Last Resort Bar in Daytona. In many ways he's just another 66
year-old Biker, who joined the Huns MC in the '60s, spent time in
the Air Force and was a mechanic. Yet, if you scratch past the
scraggly beard you'll discover that Rogue became the international
president of the Huns, the leader of the Connecticut Motorcycle
Association and fought for biker freedom for 30 years. We wouldn't
be riding as free as we are now without his significant efforts.
Many guys on the streets believe that the AMA is our bastion
against losing freedom to ride. Rogue, some of his brothers and
Easyriders fought for Bikers' Rights years before the AMA had a
legislative branch. Then, for years, we fought the AMA and the
government, since the AMA didn't side with bikers.
This story takes you back to the early days of choppers on the
east coast and the men who fought the man daily, fought the
government and fought society to be free. They were tough, rugged
times. Keep in mind that this is just one example of thousands in
this man's life. I'll let it flow, primarily, in his words:
I was International President of the HUNS MC with the
Mother Chapter in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The club actively fought the Mandatory Helmet Law through an
organization named the CMA (Connecticut Motorcycle Association).
Easyriders became a clearing point for what was going on around
the country and information was shared for the first time as
chapters of ABATE emerged.
We really turned up the heat and threw major
Helmet Protests once a month. Clubs and free riders from all over
became involved and the protests grew. (At the time the Public
Burden Theory wasn't used. As protests grew, the notion that bikers
had no use for helmet laws grew and state governments repealed the
laws. Except, there was a national threat. A law was passed that
threatened financial sanctions against states that wouldn't pass
helmet laws. It was blackmail. Rogue wrote articles for bike
magazines from as far back as "Colors Magazine", then "FTW" and "Easyriders".
I wrote about organizing protests and eventually traveled to
other states like New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and even
Georgia to help organizations build, coordinate protests and deal
with state governments.
During one protest in
Connecticut the groups left the capitol (Hartford) and headed North
and South on Interstate 95. The third group took Interstate 84.
Of course, New England is well known for all
the tolls they like to collect. Our pack lined up at the toll booth,
with leaders in the front, holding $100.00 bills. The plan was for
the first bikes to hit the toll station, pay and let the rest
through. The toll booth attendants came unglued and wanted each bike
to pay. It wasn't long until the interstates were shut down and No
Traffic was moving on them in or out of Connecticut.
During this scene bikers who drove trucks
blocked the back of the packs so motorist wouldn't hit the bikers.
They used more cages to block the other booths.
One of the car-driving biker women, with a couple
of kids, threw a kill switch at another booth. Of course Bikers,
being gentlemen, offered to assist, so the hood popped open. The car
would crank but didn't start. They removed the air cleaner. The toll
people wanted the Bikers to push the car, but they refused. Tow
trucks and State Police were called. It took them a while to arrive,
while nothing moved anywhere. We had the whole interstate system
jammed. Cops and press came out of the woodwork.
One of the state cops pulled up like gang
busters and started to yank a riot shotgun out of his trunk, when
the Sergeant slammed the trunk on his arms and yelled, "Are you
crazy. The biker broads have more fire power than we do, and no
telling what the guys have?"
My ol' lady BEEP was standing there and the cop asked her if she was
carrying, and of course she was. She had a 9 mm Browning in a
shoulder rig and a permit to carry it. They made her unload it and
gave it right back, after she threatened to sue their asses if they
didn't. They told her not to reload until she left. The cops at this
time were carrying .38 Caliber revolvers.
Every state trooper and most of the cops knew
who I was and hunted me down. There was some talk about arresting
people, and I told them, "Arrest us all or no one." They threatened
to tow bikes, but our women again had licenses, and of course we had
a couple of flat bed trucks there with plenty of tie downs.
Sandy, the photographer, was there from
Easyriders magazine and the cops tried to take his film. He handed
it to Beep and she put it down the front of her pants. The cops new
better than go for it, and told her that if she didn't give it up
they were going to arrest her. She agreed and said she would slip
into the van and retrieve it. As she slid the door open my Belgium
Shepherd Jimbo greeted the cops, and they did not want any thing to
do with our attack dog.
Beep got in the van and soon returned with a roll of film.
She had switched it in the van and gave them a blank roll.
A couple of hours later we made our point and rode out, but the
traffic was backed up for 50 miles in ever direction. We were out
partying hours later and the streets and highways were still jammed.
I few days later I got a phone call from Ella Grosso, the
governor. She wanted a meeting with me.
I rode to Hartford, with a few of my brothers, and a handful of
state cops were there to meet me. They started off threatening to
throw me in jail. Been there, done that. "Do you really want to make
me the poster boy for civil rights?" I told her if I went to jail
one of my radical, more violent, brothers would take over.
The bottom line: if we could get Washington to
remove the Blackmail threat of withholding highway funds she would
sign our Helmet repeal.
When the meeting with the governor was over
State Police head, Nick Barone, threatened me, "I'll get you, even
if I have to set you up."
In December of 1975 the United States Senate
had a hearing regarding the Cranston-Helms amendment to an
appropriations bill that would prevent the Federal Government from
withholding money to states that did not pass Mandatory Helmet Laws.
There were a lot of people testifying before
the Senate and I was one of them. I stated that I was from
Connecticut, The Constitution State, and I wanted to know when the
Government of the United States condoned blackmail.
That upset the Senate and they told me I had better
explain. I told them that my governor, Ella Grosso, did not want to
sign a helmet law repeal, even though it had passed the House and
Senate in Connecticut, because the Federal Government threatened to
withhold Federal Highway Funds. I told them that I possessed this
statement in writing. At the time I was Reverend Herlihy ( I was
there representing BIKERS CHURCH). They demanded to see this
document. I had 24 hours to deliver it to the capital.
I called some of my people and the Governor. We had to move
fast. Her aid tried to give me the run-around and I threatened her
job. I spoke directly to Ella, and she was hesitant. I reminded her
of our conversation and that I was in Washington making sure the
State of Connecticut would not loose funds. She had no excuse not to
sign the repeal.
I also promised her that, if she didn't put it
in writing, she hadn't seen anything like the protests to come. She
had better put the National Guard on standby. Hey some times you
just got to grab the bull by the horns and say, "Fuck it."
I had one of my people pick up the necessary paper
work and deliver it, just in time, as I was called back to the
I was fired up and on a roll, when the speaker told me, "Reverend
Herlihy, you can stop beating a dead horse." I didn't stop until he
said, "YOU WON It's Over."
The national blackmail threat was history and the
helmet law repealed in Connecticut.