Saturday September 7 2013
– It was like any other camping trip: some swags, food and long-life milk, tucked into a trailer headed for the outback.
But the tattoos, Harley-Davidsons and watchful police told a different story.
The Rebels, Australia’s largest outlaw motorcycle gang, left Melbourne on Friday morning for Perth, which will host the club’s national run.
The largest group left from the Sunshine chapter, with members who had arrived earlier in the day on the Spirit of Tasmania, the dozens of motorbikes being escorted by police down Fairbairn Road as two confederate flags fluttered overhead.
Some took off their leathers and sheepishly punched the address into their car’s GPS, a somewhat gentler way to cross the Nullarbor.
Others took charge of the hire trucks and trailers stocked with supplies, including the motorbikes of those who decided not to ride them.
By the time the group arrived at a police checkpoint on the Western Highway between Stawell and Ararat, Detective Inspector Ian Campbell, from the Echo Taskforce, said there were about 120 in tow. There had been no arrests, and all members had been checked for licences and bike registration and were tested for drugs and alcohol. Police even assured they were all wearing the correct helmets.
Photos of the roadblock were posted on a Rebels Facebook profile, with most page members lamenting the attention.
“Someone ring vic cops and tell em there is a terrorist at Canberra with a bomb,” one posted.
Detective Inspector Campbell, who had spoken to state presidents and sergeants-at-arms, said the bikies had been well behaved but would be monitored until they left Victoria for their first stop in Murray Bridge.
“I’ve got no donut that our colleagues in South Australia will have a bit of a welcoming committee for them as well,” he said.
West Australian police are also prepared, saying their response would be the biggest security operation since the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2011. The force said Rebels will be banned from all licensed premises in WA.
According to a national taskforce, established by the Australian Crime Commission, the Rebels have about 112 members in Victoria. The club has chapters in Sunshine West, Geelong, Warrnambool, Kilsyth, Pakenham, Springvale, Bendigo and Emerald. A Mildura chapter was disbanded this year after multiple police operations and the Croydon chapter relocated to Kilsyth last year.
The Rebels are expected to return in smaller groups, predominantly by chapter, from next week.
– Niño Bucci