May 6, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Gang Patches banned (updated)

2 min read
The Wanganui District Council banned gang patches from the city at its council meeting today. The bylaw, will come into force tomorrow and will give police powers to fine patchwearers $2000 and to take their gang insignia from them. "This bylaw is intended to deal with... gangs, but will not affect clubs and groups who are law-abiding and non-confrontational generally," a report on the gang bylaw submissions hearing, tabled at today's meeting by senior councillor Randhir Dahya, said.

Update: Wanganui gangs will don their patches when they take to the streets today to protest the wearing of gang insignia.  Gang members say the demonstration they are holding at midday in Wanganui, will be peaceful. Black Power member, Denis O’Reilly, wants police to take their patches during today’s march so they will be charged and the courts will then rule on the validity of the new bylaw.

“If someone’s behaving like an egg or being threatening and the police arrest them, then that’s fair enough. But if it’s just a question of what you wear, rather than how you behave, then that seems to be against the Bill of Rights.”  Mr O’Reilly says not only is the law unfair, but the size of the area the ban applies to is excessive.

Acting area commander Greg Hudson says officers will be policing the law with commonsense, in line with other legislation such as a liquor ban.  “Any piece of legislation that enhances the public’s safety and wellbeing has got to be an advantage. This is a piece of legislation that the people of Wanganui have wanted.”  Mr Hudson does not believe gang members will move away from the area as a result of the ban, as most have family and work ties in the region.

Kia ora to NewsTalkZB for this story.


The Wanganui District Council banned gang patches from the city at its council meeting today. The bylaw, will come into force tomorrow and will give police powers to fine patchwearers $2000 and to take their gang insignia from them.

“This bylaw is intended to deal with… gangs, but will not affect clubs and groups who are law-abiding and non-confrontational generally,” a report on the gang bylaw submissions hearing, tabled at today’s meeting by senior councillor Randhir Dahya, said.

patches“There are people in Wanganui who will say we don’t have a gang problem but the fact is there is a gang problem in Wanganui, just as there is in other towns and cities.”

Police “totally supported” the passing of the bylaw, Mr Dahya’s report said.  “This bylaw demonstrates this council’s commitment to making Wanganui a safe place for all.”

The council was required to signpost where the bylaw would be enforced, and could not determine “all public places in the district are public places”.

What are your thoughts whānau?

2 thoughts on “Gang Patches banned (updated)

  1. What the gang patch means
    By ANTHONY HUBBARD – Sunday Star Times

    Last week Wanganui outlawed the wearing of gang patches in public. But why do gangs want to wear them in the first place and what do all the little Boy Scout-style badges mean anyway?

    Gang patches are badges of honour: no wonder they cause so much trouble. Elaborate taboos surround these dark emblems. “Black Power have the interesting rule,” says gang researcher Jarrod Gilbert, “that you’re not allowed to wear the patch on a pushbike.” Doing so would demean the gang’s symbol, and even turn it into a joke. Would Satan be caught pedalling?

    Patches are sacred symbols rather like a nation’s flag, says Canterbury University sociologist Greg Newbold, and, like flags, they are major trophies of war. The trophy room, with the enemies’ captured colours decorating the walls, used to be a regular feature of a gang’s headquarters. The Mongrel Mob and Black Power like to sew their enemies’ colours to the seat of their jeans. “If you’ve stolen someone’s patch, you’ve stolen their soul,” Newbold says.

    The gang member has a personal commitment to his patch, because it has cost him so much to receive it. Gang associates must spend at least a year as a gang serf before they can be patched, and often much longer. Mongrel Mob associates undergo trials such as “drinking excrement and urine from a gumboot, raping someone, or fighting three guys at once for a minute and surviving on your feet,” writes former Mobster Tuhoe “Bruno” Isaac in his book True Red.

    The gang patches are elaborate the Mongrel Mob’s bulldog, the Black Power’s clenched fist and are usually made to order by a local embroidery shop, says Cam Stokes, a former policeman who specialised in gang work.

    The colours remain the property of the gang and must be returned if the member leaves. “The ultimate gang sin,” says Gilbert, “is to lose your patch.”

    The patches are also a kind of business card in the criminal world. “It makes it easier for them to do some illegal activities because people see they are dealing with a patched member of a gang and that person is not likely to be an informant or an undercover cop,” Stokes says.

    To the public, the patches are often a source of fear or alarm, and also curiosity. The campaign by Wanganui mayor Michael Laws to ban patches from the city centre focuses many strong emotions. So what are the colours, these modest garments that cause so much angst and woe?

    They are vests made of denim or leather and their decoration typically follows the pattern laid down by the Hells Angels gang in the late 1940s. Many incorporate the skull and wings of the Angels’ emblem, motifs which they in turn modelled on American airforce shoulder patches worn during World War II.

    The world of the outlaw gangs is in some sense curiously conformist, tending to use the same kinds of uniform and even the same structures laid down by the Angels (president, vice president, sergeant -at-arms, and so on).

    The colours “really are an imported American idea,” says Black Power member and activist Dennis O’Reilly. The first Hells Angels chapter to be established outside California was in Auckland, in 1961.

    The emblems are sometimes carved in leather or even just painted on, but most are embroidered, says Stokes, and are made by local outlets.

    “You and I couldn’t go and ask for a Mongrel Mob patch, but if you’re a member of the Mob you certainly could.”

    Hells Angels are said to get their colours commercially made in Europe. Normally a gang will have one person in charge of making or acquiring the emblems and then sewing and glueing them on to the vest. Often this is a woman.

    “A lot of the gangs are very strict about the amount of gang clothing people have,” says Stokes, a former detective who specialised in the gangs from 1987 till 2003, when he left the force.

    “They have inventories of who’s got a patch, or T-shirts or belt buckles and rings and all that sort of thing.” Nearly all of this clobber is reclaimed from members if they leave the gang, although they might be allowed to keep a few trinkets.

    Members can put a variety of other badges on their colours, rather like Boy Scouts and Cubs. The 1% badge is based on a quote from Lin Kuchler, secretary of the American Motorcycle Association, after the riot in July 1947 in the town of Hollister in California the riot that brought the outlaw bikie phenomenon to the attention of the world.

    “The disreputable cyclists are possibly 1% of the total number of motocyclists; only 1% are hoodlums and troublemakers,” he said. The local police chief described the bikies as “outlaws”. The non-AMA clubs, Australian academic George Drewery says in a study of bikie insignia, “in the tradition of taking the insults of the enemy as a badge of honour”, adopted the labels.

    An American police report once described some especially horrifying gang badges, according to The Brotherhoods, a study of gangs by Monash University academic Arthur Veno. “Wings” could be gained for any number of vile actions including bestiality and necrophilia. Veno refers to the “legend” of these badges: with the gangs, it is often hard to separate truth from myth.

    The Mongrel Mob drew its name, it seems, from some remarks made by a Hastings judge when a group of young Pakeha appeared before him in 1956. “Denounced as a `pack of mongrels’ by the presiding magistrate, the group thereafter began referring to itself as The Mongrels, according to The Girls in the Gang, a 2001 book by Glennis Dennehy and Greg Newbold. Later, the gang grew and became dominated by Maori, and its name turned into the Mongrel Mob in the 1960s.

    Gang colours are symbols “to show that we belong and that other people don’t”, says Auckland University anthropologist Julie Park. “Symbols of inclusion are always symbols of exclusion, and vice-versa.” This applies to Rotary Club badges as to gang patches, except that gang colours are designed to look fearsome and to cause offence.

    “Many have asked why the British bulldog stood as our gang symbol,” writes Isaac in True Red. “The bulldog was a symbol of the British colonial oppression that consumed the Maori people. The guys figured if you put that image on a Maori’s back, with the dog wearing a German helmet with a swastika attached to it, then you had a dual symbol of contradiction and hatred…

    “The swastika symbol, taken on board by the original gang members, stood for the enemies our fathers and grandfathers fought against and detested in World War II. In our perversity we appropriated that symbol, proclaimed it as our own and set ourselves up as enemy No1. Red was our colour and it stood for blood.”

    This might make the gang sound political; Black Power’s symbol of a clenched fist, taken from the American radical movement of the 1960s, seems overtly so. Certainly some of the leaders of Black Power, such as the long-serving president Rei Harris, have used radical political rhetoric about Pakeha oppression and colonialism.

    But Gilbert, who has just finished his doctoral thesis at Canterbury on the history of the gangs, says politics has little to do with it.

    He says Black Power was originally called the Black Bulls. “The reason they’re called Black Power is it sounded cool and the reason they chose [the image] is because it looked cool. I don’t think there is too much more to it than that.”

    Politically aware leaders like Harris had a big influence on the gang, “but they were dealing with rebellious young men who just wanted to drink piss, scrap with other gangs and sleep with women”.

    There had always been a fear that the gangs would become political, and perhaps even terrorists, but this had never happened. Now, however, when the gangs are under attack over their patches, they might become political in response, Gilbert says.

    Patches are not worn as much as they used to be, according to the experts. As the gangs increasingly get into drug dealing and organised crime, they want to lower their profile so they don’t attract the attention of the police. That means dressing like everyone else.

    “The top-level major players in the drug world, they’re wearing their patches only when they have to,” Stokes says. “The rest of the time they’re driving late model cars and don’t stand out.”

    Bans on the public display of patches, he says, “will just hasten what they’re going to be doing over time anyway”.

    Trophy rooms in gang headquarters are not as common as they used to be either, according to Gilbert.

    “Police threatened that if an opposition gang was found with colours from another gang they would know they were taken by aggravated robbery,” he says. In any case, pitched battles between gangs are not nearly as frequent as they used to be partly because gang members, especially the leaders, are now older.

    Gilbert and Stokes oppose bans on patches, partly because the patches help police control the gangs. Police often identify the gang members by their colours. If they all wore civvies, how to tell the major players from the associates and “hangabouts”?

    “If al Qaeda wore gang patches,” says Gilbert, “the war on terror would be much easier.”

    In a sense, Stokes says, the gangs undermine their own interests by wearing patches. “After serious violence it would absolutely be in their interests to rip off their patches [so as to avoid identification]. But they don’t that would be a sign of weakness.”

    Sometimes staunch is stupid.

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