REBELS outlaw motorcycle gang members have been greeted by Victoria Police with an extensive search ahead of a huge gathering in Melbourne this weekend.
Pictures from Sunshine West, 16km from the CBD, show hundreds of the gang’s members being stopped and searched at the checkpoint.
Sniffer dogs were on the scene to make sure none of the members were carrying drugs. Registration and licence checks were carried out and the riders were also breath tested.
It followed a warning from police this morning that members of the OMCG who broke the law or misbehaved would be dealt with “swiftly”.
In a statement, Victoria Police said they were “aware” and “prepared to act swiftly if required in response to a planned Rebels national outlaw motorcycle gang event this coming weekend”.
State Police commander David Clayton said members of the gang from interstate and regional chapters had made their way to Melbourne and that locals should expect and increase in traffic in and around Sunshine and St Kilda.
“I want to reassure the community police will take immediate action to detect and disrupt any OMCG members who breach road safety laws, commit crimes or public order offences,” he said.
“Taskforce Echo detectives, with support from regional police, the Operations Response Unit, State Highway Patrol and specialist resources will be deployed where and when needed.
“Our priority is to ensure public safety and reduce any community intimidation or apprehension.”
Commander Clayton said “anyone involved in outlaw motorcycle gang activity and involved in organised crime should be aware they will have our attention”.
The gathering is similar to one held last year in Devonport, Tasmania. More than 300 Rebels members took the Spirit of Tasmania to get together for the chapter’s 20th year.
On that occasion, they were also screened heavily.
In 2016, Rebels members gathered in Melbourne’s Federation Square for a protest against the Federal Government cancelling visas for some gang members.
They held signs reading “Keep our families together” and told reporters they were being unfairly targeted.
“I thought Australia was meant to be the lucky country. How can this country do this to people?” one member told the Herald Sun.
“Bring every single one of them back. If they want to live here, they should be allowed to.”
The Rebels have more than 70 chapters around Australia and more than 2000 members.
Nuulua Levi, 55, and Peniamina Elia, 34, are among several people charged over the brawl in August last year.
The two — who were members of the Comanchero motorbike club — came to Canberra as part of the group’s 33rd memorial run.
The fight kicked off at about 3am, involving punching, kicking each other’s head, headbutting and throwing items.
None of those involved would talk to police, so charges were laid based on evidence on CCTV footage.
Magistrate Ken Cush said it was a serious incident.
“Clearly, as a result of what happened in the Capital Men’s Club, there was a considerable amount of violence,” he said.
He also noted that although it was in a strip club, and in the early hours of the morning, the venue was open to the public.
Mr Crush added that staff, including the women working there lawfully, were vulnerable.
He said the men took a very active role in the brawl.
“There was plenty of opportunity for both to disengage,” he said.
“Both are large men. They behaved like a pack of wild dogs.”
Family members in the public gallery became distressed as both were sentenced to 10 months jail, to be suspended after five months.
Another man, 27-year-old Paea Talakai, already received a similar sentence after also pleading guilty.
One more person is awaiting sentence.