More than 150 Hells Angels and other outlaw motorcycle gang members blocked the Trans-Canada Highway Saturday during their annual ride to Victoria from Nanaimo.
Traffic was stopped for about 20 minutes when police from the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. and other RCMP from Vancouver Island gathered near Duncan to monitor the large group of bikers.
“Police had information that the bikers would be riding today,” said Sgt. Lindsey Houghton, spokesman for the unit. “And with May being Motorcycle Safety Month, police wanted to take this opportunity to conduct road safety checks on the bikers.”
Houghton said many of the bikers ignored red lights, speeded excessively and passed other vehicles in an unsafe manner after leaving Nanaimo.
About two dozen police officers stopped the ride near the North Cowichan municipal hall shortly after 2 p.m. Road safety traffic members were there to inspect the bikes, make sure they were in good working order and conduct noise decibel meter tests on their pipes, Houghton said.
But the bikers refused to pull into the area that police had cordoned off.
Police said they documented the refusals and will be following up with appropriate enforcement action.
“They stopped, blocked traffic. There was a discussion between us and them, and ultimately they were allowed to proceed,” said Houghton, who was not at the scene.
“There were no physical confrontations, but I understand they weren’t too happy with us. They were yelling at us. But that’s something that we’re used to when we’re dealing with groups like this.”
Asked if it was a tense situation, Houghton replied that there is the potential for violence any time there is an interaction between a lot of motorcycle gang members and the police.
“Some of these people are extremely violent, and there are many Hells Angels members and outlaw motorcycle gang members in communities across B.C. who are convicted felons. They have drugs or violence-related offenses, and some have even been before the courts for murder,” he said.
Houghton said the traffic stop was neither a success nor a failure.
“Our goal was to stop them and let them know we are aware of their activities and that we will continue to monitor them like this in the interests of ensuring public safety. We will seize every opportunity to look at appropriate enforcement action against the people engaged in organized crime in communities around B.C.”
Houghton said traffic on the highway was at a standstill for 15 to 20 minutes.
“Understandably, on a nice day like this, it was an inconvenience for people. We did have a very large area off to the side of the road, and if the bikers had complied, there would have been no delay in traffic. But they chose not to,” he said.
“Seeing a large group of bikers rolling down the highway and through towns can be intimidating for the public, and that is their intention — to intimidate,” Houghton said.
“Today was yet another example of groups like the Hells Angels thinking they are above the law.”