CRUISY RIDER: Patriots Motorcycle Club Nelson Chapter sergeant-at-arms Colin Agnew on his Harley Davidson in Anzac Park.
If you see a bunch of tough-looking guys on motorbikes arriving in town on Saturday, don’t panic, it’s not an invading bikie gang.
A nationwide motorcycle club of former and present members of New Zealand’s armed forces called the Patriots is launching a ride around the South Island as part of the White Ribbon campaign.
The Patriots started in Auckland in 1998 and today the club has 300 members, including 20 in its Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast chapter.
With their patches, leather, tattoos and big bikes, the Patriots look, to the untrained eye, more like a gang than a club.
‘‘We even have some members that wear German World War II helmets but we try to discourage it,’’ Nelson chapter sergeant-at-arms Colin Agnew told The Leader.
The club’s insignia features a skull, a red background representing split blood, crossed swords for the army, wings for the air force and an anchor for the navy. And though that sounds a little intimidating, you are unlikely to see it being flashed around.
‘‘We’re not back-patched,’’ Mr Agnew said.
Last weekend eyebrows were raised when 20 Patriots from as far away as Dunedin arrived in town to take part in the local chapter’s first poker run.
The fundraising ride was held to benefit the TS Talisman sea cadet unit and while they were here the Patriots were based at the unit’s premises in Harley St, mere metres from Nelson Police Station.
‘‘After they arrived, I went over to the police to tell them who we were and by that stage they had already had three calls from people who thought there was some new motorbike gang in town,’’ Mr Agnew said.
White Ribbon is an international campaign led by men condemning violence. Despite his time in the army, Mr Agnew said he had always been anti-violence and he thinks the Patriots have an important job to do.
‘‘The whole point is to get the message across that you can be a rough, tough-looking biker but you don’t have to be violent,’’ he said.
Mr Agnew said a lot of the club’s members had served in peacekeeping missions overseas. Supporting White Ribbon was a way for them to keep the peace at home.
Saturday’s launch of the South Island run at Anzac Park starts at noon after a ride up Trafalgar St. There will be speeches, kapa haka and a barbecue. The public is encouraged to go along.
The riders leave for Motueka at 2pm and the run finishes a week later in Blenheim.
The journey will see the Patriots stopping at 31 White Ribbon events and throughout the run their accommodation and meals are being organised by the Maori Wardens for $25 a day.
Colin said members of the public were welcome to join them.
‘‘They can ride with us for an hour, a day or they can do the whole ride,’’ he said.
It’s the second time the Patriots have held a South Island White Ribbon run and Mr Agnew said the rides got people talking about the campaign.
‘‘What better way to raise awareness than having a whole lot of noisy motorbikes riding through the middle of your town covered in white ribbons?’’