A local member of the feared Mongols Motorcycle Club, a Latino gang with upwards of 600 members in seven states and four countries, wants his colors back. Last October, following an 86-count indictment of 79 Mongols on a host of charges including murder, arms trafficking, drug dealing, hate crimes, and money laundering, a federal judge barred members of the gang from wearing or distributing its infamous logo — featuring a ponytailed biker astride a chopper. Using the order, cops have begun confiscating clothes and motorcycles with the image, and the government is seeking permanent forfeiture of the logo’s trademark, owned by the club.
But San Diego County resident Ramon Rivera, a Mongol who was not charged in the indictment, argues his First and Fifth Amendment rights are being violated by the ban. “As a Club member, Rivera participates in social and charitable events organized by the Club and its chapters in the San Diego area,” says his complaint, filed by a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in federal court here last week. “The social events include barbecues, outings, and funerals. The charitable events include collecting toys for disadvantaged children and delivering dog food to a local humane society.” Rivera argues that wearing the logo “symbolizes unity and brotherhood with his friends and fellow Club members, most of whom are low-income and Latino, and represents their struggle for recognition and equality.”
Defendants include Ronnie Carter, acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Attorney General Eric Holder. According to the suit, “A National City police officer informed Rivera that ATF agents had told the officer that if the agents saw anyone wearing items displaying the Image while attending a funeral in National City, the agents would ask National City Police Department officers to confiscate those items.”