The recent MC brawl in North Texas was a large-scale eruption of violence by most standards: nine people died, and another 18 were hospitalized. A whopping 170 individuals were arrested. One Twin Peaks restaurant closed, and police confiscated hundreds of guns, knives and other weapons.
Somehow this degree of destruction was possible even though police were outside of the restaurant before the fighting started. But when you look back at the history of MCs in the United States, it’s pretty obvious that this behavior isn’t anything new.
More than 15 years after the motorcycle was invented in Germany, William Harley and his friends Arthur and Walter Davidson created the iconic Harley-Davidson motor company in 1903. Before World War II, bikers often gathered in Hollister, California, where the American Motorcyclist Association held meet-ups for hobbyists and those seeking camaraderie.
After World War II, things changed. Looking for adventure and brotherhood in a post-war world, a different sort of people began flocking to the MCs. Sure, some just wanted to find fellow bikers to ride with, but others were bored and still reeling from the horrors of war. These men had firsthand experience in handling weaponry, and lacked an outlet.
July 1947 marked the first major MC riot. When more than 4,000 motorcyclists flocked to a Hollister meetup, the city’s small-scale police force was unable to manage the rowdy crowd of bikers. Eventually state police were called in, but it didn’t prevent the violence from unfolding. The Wild One, which was released in 1953, depicted the Hollister Riots and drew national attention to the unwieldy MCs. In 1948, another riot in Riverside further smeared the reputation of bikers, casting them off as destructive, lawless individuals.