Police keeping an eye on Hells Angels gathering in Lethbridge this weekend

Police officers from several Alberta forces will be in Lethbridge on the weekend to monitor a gathering of Hells Angels motorcycle gang members. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
Police officers from several Alberta forces will be in Lethbridge on the weekend to monitor a gathering of Hells Angels motorcycle gang members. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

Lethbridge police say they will be monitoring a gathering of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and its supporters in the city this weekend.

Officers from Calgary, Edmonton, Taber and Camrose as well as members of the RCMP and the ALERT Integrated Gang Enforcement Team will be helping keep an eye on things.

A "large number" of the bikers, their support clubs and others are expected to ride throughout the southern Alberta city beginning Friday for what police call a "grand opening party" for a new Lethbridge chapter of the Hells Angels.

Police add the removal and exclusion of gang members from bars and similar establishments is included in the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act. Officers say they will be monitoring those places in Lethbridge for Hells Angels members.

"We will be working with our policing partners to monitor their presence, deter illegal activity and maintain public safety through an overt police presence," acting Insp. Pete Christos said in a release from the Lethbridge Police Service.

Much ado about nothing?

Mount Royal University criminologist Kelly Sundberg told CBC News that the Hells Angels are a massive, well-known, global organization and police are trying to prepare for their gathering in Lethbridge by issuing a public message.

"This is probably as much about informing the Hells Angels that the police are expecting them, ready for them, and want to have a safe and orderly event … as it is for the public," Sundberg said.

Although organized motorcycle group activity in Alberta has been relatively quiet in recent years — which the criminologist partly attributes to restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic — he is not surprised to see the Hells Angels bolstering their ranks in southern Alberta. 

"We really haven't heard of a new Hells Angels clubhouse opening up in our province for a while," Sundberg said.

"They are growing, expanding — creating a new foothold, if you will — within a community. This is obviously going to be a challenge for the Lethbridge Police Service and police services throughout southern Alberta."

According to Sundberg, in past decades the Hells Angels have not engaged in any activity publicly that would be a cause for concern for public safety, and he anticipates there will not be an increase in danger to the people of Lethbridge, although there may be anxiety about the new chapter opening up. He noted a Hells Angels' gathering is typically uneventful and their presence in a city doesn't elicit the same public backlash it did in the '80s or '90s.

"There are going to be some loud choppers driving around and probably a lot of beer being consumed, and some hootin' and hollerin' and loud music for a bit in their celebrations. But the Hells Angels — as rough and ready as they look — are an incredibly sophisticated and savvy organization," Sundberg said. "They know not to push the limit to offend or disturb the greater community. They are very skilled at their public relations."

"I would be astonished if there was any major criminal incident that evolved from this event in Lethbridge.... I think it's going to be much ado about nothing. But I'm glad that the police are there, and I think this message from the police is basically the police saying to them, 'We're watching.'"

The gathering of the Hells Angels coincides with this year's Street Machine Weekend in Lethbridge, which will see muscle cars, hotrods and vehicles with souped-up engines on display for a celebration of cars and car culture.