Here on the Gold Coast of Australia we have a bikie problem. And for my non-Australian friends, by bikie I am not referring to the numerous “mamils” (middle-aged aged men in Lycra) that clog our streets as well. The term applies to members of outlaw motorcycle gangs. For years the gangs have pretty much been given free rein here on the Gold Coast. One could see Finks, Rebels, Hells Angels, and Bandidos roaming our city on a daily basis. In fact a high ranking member of the Hell’s angels owns my gym and when I drop off my wife to her gym roided out members of the rival gang the Bandidos are getting their pump on. Bikie gangs owned most of the nightclubs, restaurants, and gyms on the Coast. Indeed, a huge black-market in part helped to keep the Gold Coast economy going in the tough years after the global financial crisis. For years not much was said about this situation. Police denied there was a problem, whilst bikie members largely sorted out problems and carved out their own turf. The Finks ruled Surfers the Bandidos Broadbeach and so on in all areas of the Gold Coast. For the police the gangs served a purpose in that they largely “regulated” the drug trade and kept independent operators out of the clubs. If the gangs got out of line non-affiliated toughs largely put them back in line.
In the past few years things have begun to unravel. It began a few years back with a major punch-up between Finks and Hells angels over the patching over of a Finks to the angels Christopher Hudson. The same individual who subsequently committed a heinous murder of a backpacker in broad daylight in Melbourne who was trying to keep Hudson in a drug fuelled rage from assaulting his girlfriend. Then last year at a major mall in the Gold Coast a member of the Finks shot at the leader of the Bandidos in broad daylight in a crowded mall where a passer-by was injured as well. The event caused uproar on the coast, but police tried to claim it was an isolated incident. Residents knew better. Sure enough incidents escalated: tit for tat shootings and a growing presence of patched members on our city’s street. On a daily basis me and my family would be having Baby chinos in Varsity lakes next to neck tattooed gang members….One known city tough made little secret of his identity driving around a car with the plates OIHit. Everything came to a head two months ago in the vacation suburb of Broadbeach. A huge gang of Bandidos in the busy restaurant hub dragged a member of the finks from a restaurant and into the crowded streets in front of a horrified public. A horrific brawl ensued, which the police were near powerless to stop. Like a scene from the streets of Baghdad a large number of Bandidos in black SUVs chanted and mocked the officers with chants of Bandidos!, Bandidos!. While the police arrested some of the bikies, a large group of Bandidos surrounded the police station in Southport in a show of force. Police were humiliated as their impotence was broadcast throughout Australia. People asked themselves do we live in a third-world country run by violent gangs like Libya?
Deeply embarrassed the Queensland government finally took action, and for the past two months has launched a military-like campaign against the gangs. Anyone who even looked like a gang-member was arrested or harassed. Much like George W Bush on the aircraft carrier, within two weeks some members of the government were already claiming victory, claiming that bikies were turning in their colours in droves. Locals knew better. Indeed it has come out that a loophole in the hastily written laws made it impossible to prosecute those who were “no longer” members of a gang. So too has the judicial branch of the Queensland government begun to question the harsh measures taken by the Newman government as a breach of Australian civil rights: where do I stand on the issue? Like many issues it’s more complicated than it seems. No matter what the government tells us that these gangs are not going to just disband no matter the laws. Like killing all of the sharks in the ocean to save a few fish, eliminating these organisations will do little to hinder the drug trade or indeed crime on the Gold Coast. It would probably grow worse. My guess is that once the furor dies down a bit gangs will try to merge back into the background where they belong. Its seems too many young Australians men have watching Sons of Anarchy. Certainly young men have always wanted to see themselves as tough guys. The sixth-century Roman historian Procopius described the action of similar groups in sixth-century Constantinople. He described the factions as dressing in a similar manner to modern bikies He sharply criticized the men of Constantinople for their embarrassing attempts to emulate the barbarians:
To begin with, the partisans changed the style of their hair to quite novel fashion, having it cut very differently from the other Romans. They did not touch moustache or beard at all, but were always anxious to let them grow as long as possible, like the Persians. But the hair on the front of the head they cut right back to the temples, allowing the growth behind to hang down to its full length in a disorderly mass, like the Massagetae. That is why they sometimes called this the Hunnish style. Then as regards dress, they all thought it necessary to be luxuriously turned out, donning attire too ostentatious for their particular station. For they were in a position to obtain such garments at other people’s expense. The part of the tunic covering their arms was drawn in very tight at the wrists, while from there to the shoulders it spread out to an enormous width. Whenever they waved their arms as they shouted in the theatre or the hippodrome and encouraged their favorites in the usual way, up in the air went this part of their tunics, giving silly people the notion that their bodies were so splendidly sturdy that they had to be covered with garments of this kind: they did not realize that the transparency and emptiness of their attire rather served up to show their miserable physique. Their capes and breaches too, and in most cases their shoes, were classed as Hunnish in name and fashion.
Procopius claimed that these men had merely taken on the semblance of the Hunnic warrior nature. While they frittered their time away attending races and terrorizing the local nobility in the capital, on the battlefields of Italy the Empire’s “real” men were dying. These words would resonate for most citizens of the Gold Coast today.