The Journal staff
CLEMSON — The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, classified by the U.S. Department of Justice as an “outlaw motorcycle gang,” is coming to Clemson this summer.
Approximately 750 members of the motorcycle club and their families are scheduled to come to the city July 29-Aug. 2 as part of the club’s annual summer rally, according to city and chamber officials.
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is an outlaw motorcycle gang with 2,000-2,500 members in 230 chapters in the United States and 26 foreign countries, according to the Department of Justice website.
“The Hells Angels pose a criminal threat on six continents,” the Department of Justice website says.
“The Hells Angels are involved in the production, transportation and distribution of marijuana and methamphetamine. Additionally, the Hells Angels are involved in the transportation and distribution of cocaine, hashish, heroin, LSD, PCP and diverted pharmaceuticals. The Hells Angels are also involved in other criminal activity, including assault, extortion, homicide, money laundering and motorcycle theft.”
Clemson Police Chief Jimmy Dixon said he learned the Hells Angels were planning an event in the city nearly a year ago.
“They are coming,” Dixon said. “We were given an 11-month notice that they were holding their rally in Clemson. They didn’t have to do that. We can’t stop them from having an event, but we are working with other law enforcement authorities.”
Visit Clemson tourism director Kade Herrick said the Hells Angels initially expressed interest in 2016 about coming to Clemson in 2017, but opted for Branson, Mo., instead.
“They contacted us in 2016 and we looked at ‘17, and it comes down to a vote for their people, and they voted for Branson in 2017,” Herrick said. “When they came back in 2018 and then they put it up for a vote in ‘19, they voted to come here.”
Herrick said the Hells Angels gave city officials the opportunity to say no to their plans to come to Clemson in 2019 when the motorcycle club approached officials last year.
“When they came back to us in 2018, we could have told them we weren’t interested, but that wasn’t the case,” Herrick said. “They’re just like any other group coming to town. Once we made the commitment and were awarded that, we wouldn’t back out. They want to know whatever city they announce they’re going to that the city is not going to back out.”
Herrick said he met with Dixon, Clemson Mayor J.C. Cook and city administrator Rick Cotton. Afterward, he sent the visitor’s packet to the Hells Angels organization.
“It is what we would give anybody,” Herrick said. “In the even-numbered years, they go west of the Mississippi, so in 2019, we were eligible again,” Herrick said. “We did our due diligence and talked to other sites that hosted them in the past, and they didn’t have any issues and welcomed them back. It’s their annual ride. They have their annual meeting and they head out.”
The Journal learned of the event in Clemson with the Hells Angels last week, seven months after Herrick, Dixon, Cook and Cotton met to talk about it and Herrick sent the visitor’s packet to the motorcycle club.
Cook said Clemson officials found cities where Hells Angels rally events have been held didn’t have a problem with them.
“The hoteliers and the restaurants don’t care whose dollars they take,” Cook said. “I just happened to be on vacation in South Dakota a couple of times when they had a big rally and have run into them in hotels and restaurants, and they’ve been just as nice and polite. A lot of people who do this are doctors and lawyers and professional people. People work hard and have to have some release.”
Herrick said he expects an economic impact of about $1.2 million from the five days the Hells Angels are scheduled to be in the city. He said the group plans to use two local hotels and set up in the back of the buildings.
“They have a blocked-off area,” Herrick said. “They don’t want outsiders to enter so there won’t be any issues.”
Cook said the city doesn’t need any special insurance for the event. Cook said the only inconvenience he expects is residents will hear “some motorcycle noise.”
“It’s going to happen, and we’ll deal with it like we do anything else,” Cook said. “I don’t think 750 motorcycle riders will cause any more problems than 21,000 students.”