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Stopping Rebels without good cause

18 Oct, 2011 01:00 AM

The Rebels Motorcycle Club's recent annual run to Mildura sent chills down the spine.

It wasn't the bearded bikies rumbling purposefully down the highway who caused disquiet as much as the number of police, many heavily armed, dispatched to intercept them along their journey.

The Apple Isle contingent, for example, was stopped as the bikies rode off the Spirit of Tasmania. No offences were detected.

Those same riders were among the growing pack stopped at a roadblock outside Wedderburn in northern Victoria. There, police issued a handful of traffic infringement notices and charged a couple with drug possession, but by Acting Assistant Commissioner Jack Blayney's admission, this was "not what I would say would be significant offending".

The pack, by now grown to about 500, was stopped again in Mildura where the Rebels' stay had been "incident-free".

If 500 footballers or even 500 Holden drivers had converged on the city, it is odds-on the level of offending would have been higher. But would they have warranted calling out police from every state, the AFP, the air wing, the operation response unit, road policing specialist units, the dog squad and taskforce detectives?

Outlaw motorcycle gangs engage in vile and violent crime. And - though they don't have a monopoly on that - to think otherwise is to believe that the guy found outside a Sunshine West clubhouse really had self-inflicted his injuries with a knuckleduster.

What is alarming is the singling out of one group regarded as unacceptable by the broader society.

Have we really become a country where people are summarily stopped and searched because of the subset of society they belong to... for who they are rather than what they have done?

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