One-percenters: Michigan’s Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

What is the past, present, and future of outlaw motorcycle gangs in Detroit and Michigan?

The recent shootout in Waco, Texas which left 9 dead and 170 arrested has sparked interest in criminal motorcycle gangs known as one-percenters. The name is derived from a comment by the American Motorcycle Association that 99 percent of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens, leaving the remaining 1 percent as outlaws. 

Stephen Henderson meets with Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press and Scott Burnstein, a local historian and editor of Gangster Report, to discuss the past, present, and future of outlaw motorcycle gangs in Detroit and Michigan.

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  • History of Detroit biker gangs. One of the main reasons why the notorious Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club has never gained a strong foothold in this state is the continued presence of two powerful one-percenter gangs. The Highway Men Motorcycle Club, founded in Detroit in 1954, is currently the largest outlaw motorcycle gang in Michigan. Their bitter rival, the Outlaw Motorcycle Club has a large Detroit chapter. The Highway Men and the Outlaws have been at constant odds since the 1970s. 

  • A public menace? Only a small percentage of the bikers you see on the road are members of outlaw gangs. Scott Burnstein says in a Gangster Report article that these groups are not just motorcycle enthusiasts, they are “fully-functional crime conglomerates” but “they are clannish, not mobbish.”

  • Sneaking under the radar. Stephen and his guests discuss the way we view crime in cities like Detroit and why outlaw motorcycle gangs often manage to escape attention. After events such as the violent biker brawl in Waco, however, these one-percenters do come into the public eye. As Burnstein explains, “it’s kind of a sub-culture that holds a kind of fascination for the public.”

Hear the full conversation by clicking the audio link above.