This Sunday, our ride was a little different – we didn’t hit the hills, or go looking for beautiful views. This weekend, we stood up for our rights to ride motorbikes and associate with whom we want, without fear of harassment from the police and Queensland Government.
If you’re unaware of the Vicious Lawlessness Association Disestablishment Act (VLAD), there is a pretty good explanation of what this means for the average Queenslander posted here by Guest Lawyers. The basic rundown [as taken from that blog post]:
The VLAD Act is an unprecedented mandatory sentencing regime. It provides that people who are defined as “vicious lawless associates” will automatically have to serve 15 years in prison in addition to their standard sentence. If they are deemed to be an officer bearer of the relevant association, they will automatically be required to serve 25 years in custody in addition to their standard sentence. The mandatory additional sentence of 15 or 25 years imprisonment must be imposed even if the person is not sentenced to a period of imprisonment for the original offence.
Unless the person becomes an informer, they are not eligible for parole during the additional sentence and accordingly will have to serve the entire 15 or 25 years in custody.
What does this mean for the people of Queensland?
The recent anti-bikie legislation, including the VLAD Act, has been sold to the public as a necessary piece of legislative artillery in the Queensland Government’s “war on bikies”. In the first week post the introduction of the Bills, the government has spent close to $800,000 on an extensive advertising campaign spreading the message that they have “drawn the line” on “Criminal Bikie Gangs.”
Contrary to the political spin, the extensive mandatory detention powers in the VLAD Act are not limited in any way to alleged “criminal bikie gangs”. You do not have to be a member or associate of one of the 26 motorcycle clubs which have now been declared as criminal organisations to be classed as a vicious lawless associate. The declaration of these 26 clubs as criminal organisations and the resulting new criminal offences and increased penalties for their participants (such as the prohibition on 3 or more alleged bikies being together in a public place, an offence for which a person must now spend at least 6 months in custody if convicted) are part of a separate legislation scheme contained in the Criminal Law (Criminal Organisations Disruption) Amendment Act (“CLCOD”). The ambit of the VLAD is in no way limited to members or associates of these clubs.
The blog then goes on to show how members of clubs in Queensland, who may have nothing to do with motorcycles at all, could be affected by these laws. I strongly suggest you check this post out ASAP.
So, about yesterday!
We started in Redcliffe, getting there right on 9am, we were at the end of the pack. The sound was just incredible, and although the group was split by traffic lights coming out of Redcliffe, the show must have been amazing to passers-by. We waved at kids along the way and got thumbs-up from adults in cars – who says bikers are intimidating people?!
When we got to Alice St, we barely made it halfway up before a copper came along to tell us to park our bikes where we were – they had run out of room to put us all. As we walked up the lines of bikes, there was a feeling of great camaraderie in the air. While there were obviously many club members in attendance (the overwhelming majority not being members of one of the 26 Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs), there were just as many like us, who aren’t involved with MCs in any way and just wanted to ensure our freedom to ride. I’ve heard some online commenters saying that ‘having thousands mass in leathers does more harm than good’ – to which I strongly disagree. While yes, the majority of bikes in attendance were Harleys, there was also a great number of sportsbikes, tourers, dirtbikes etc in the mix. There was even a scooter parked amongst the hogs (look for it in the video below)! It was excellent to see so many recreational riders – club members or not – dissatisfied with these new police powers, joined as brothers and sisters to make their voices heard outside Parliament House.
There were some great outfits getting around amongst the usual leather, Slayer shirts and torn denim. Lots of customised t-shirts, ebroidered hot pink vests and my favourite: Campbell’s Clown. Pink was a common theme, in response to Newman’s statement that he would like to see prisoners charged under the VLAD Act to be forced to wear hot pink jumpsuits in prison.
I won’t go into the speeches here, as motorbikewriter.com has already done a great write-up, and with the number of people there, it took Adam and I until halfway through to find a spot where we could hear them. Estimates are coming in at about 3000 people joining the rally, with plenty of non-riders coming along to support it as well!
And here’s the video of the day – while we’re saving for an action cam, my little point and shoot will have to do… sorry for the shaky image!
See you round the next bend,
A & S