A member of the Rock Machine arrives in London, Ont., for two days to party with the London chapter of the Outlaws gang in September 2000.
Organized crime experts say the resurfacing of the Rock Machine motorcycle gang in Montreal last week is another sign of a power vacuum in the city’s underworld that could lead to another biker war.
Ten individuals allegedly flaunting Rock Machine colours were spotted in a downtown Montreal strip club on Thursday. Montreal is considered territory of the notorious Hells Angels biker gang which fought battled the Rock Machine between 1994 and 2002, leaving 160 people dead.
The Rock Machine’s Quebec presence ended in the early 2000s after many of its members were killed and its assets seized by police.
Some Rock Machiners defected to the Hells, others retired, but their presence in Montreal last week lends credence to the fears that the gang is back.
James Dubro and Antonio Nicaso, two well-known organized crime experts, said the spotting of the Rock Machine in Montreal is a sign that the Hells are seen as weak.
In April 2009, 130 members of the Hells Angels and their supporters were arrested in a police operation called SharQc.
“If the Rock Machine resurfaced in Montreal, it’s because they feel safe,” Nicaso, an award-winning journalist and internationally recognized organized crime expert, said.
Dubro, also an award-winning crime author, said the Hells are probably the weakest they’ve been since the end of the biker war in 2002.
The choice to show off in Montreal’s Chez Paree strip club is symbolic.
One of the Rock Machine’s leaders was savagely beaten 10 years ago at the club by people tied to the Hells.
Montreal is the second city visited by the Rock Machine of late.
Recent arsons and gunfights in Winnipeg have been attributed to fighting between the Rock Machine and a Hells-affiliated group.
The Winnipeg violence, coupled with the Montreal appearance, is troubling, Nicaso said.
“These are two clear indications that (the Rock Machine is) trying to muscle in and regain control of the territory they lost after the war with the Hells,” he said.
Montreal’s power vacuum extends to mafia circles as well.
The Rizzuto family, a reputed powerful organized crime force in Montreal since the late 70s, has had much of its leadership assassinated in the past two years.
The bikers are just one of several groups vying for influence in this strategically important port city, Nicaso said.
However, Dubro said a new biker war between the Rock Machine and the Hells isn’t a certainty.
If the Rock Machine decides to sell softer drugs like marijuana or steroids, there likely won’t be much resistance from competing groups because the market is so large, he said. However, if the biker gang wants to enter the highly lucrative cocaine market, the Hells will take notice.
“If you see the Rock Machine on the selling side (of cocaine) then they become a threat to the Hells,” Dubro said. “And that means there will be a violent elimination of it.”
However, the Rock Machine has publicly renounced illegal activities and said it will focus on real estate, Dubro said incredulously.
“They will (get into drugs) and there will be problems,” he said. “The fact that (the Rock Machine) publicly flaunted their colours is a big deal. The police shouldn’t tolerate it and the Hells won’t tolerate it.”