With nine dead, 18 injured, and 170 bikers arrested after this weekend’s shootout outside a Waco, Texas restaurant, the obvious question is: Why? The answer, it seems, is a single patch on the vests of a rival motorcycle club.
Texas has been dominated by one group of bikers: the Bandidos. They own the state and show it with a patch at the bottom of their vest.
Assuming you’ve endured a few episodes of Sons of Anarchy, you know that vests are called “cuts” and that the identifying elements – the patches – are the “colors.” On the middle of the vest is their symbol, above that is a patch with the name of the club, and below is the “bottom rocker” which identifies the region each member is from.
The Bandidos staked a claim to Texas in 1966, and that means no other club can use the state’s name on their bottom rocker. Sure, they’ll allow smaller clubs in the state after asking permission, but the Texas bottom rocker is off-limits.
And that’s where the problems began.
The Cossacks are the Bandidos’ rival MC in the state, forming in 1969 as a smaller club that always stayed out of the Bandidos’ way. But over the past several years their numbers – and gang-like antics – have increased.
That boost in membership and illegal activity emboldened them to take on the Bandidos and that started with adding the Texas bottom rocker to their cuts.
Charles Falco, a former drug dealer that joined the DEA as an undercover agent, infiltrated three motorcycle gangs, and then wrote a book about it broke the Waco situation down in an interview for Slate:
The Bandidos have always OK’d the Cossacks right to exist as long as they didn’t wear the Texas bottom rocker. The Cossacks have been growing in numbers and recruiting more of that hardcore biker personality in their club. So they were starting to go that way – it’s like a slow transition. And when you get your numbers up, then we can go ahead and challenge the Bandidos to their area by throwing on that Texas bottom rocker. And the Cossacks have grown in number incredibly, and the power they think they have, and the soldiers they think they have and said, “It’s time to step up.”
A police bulletin from May 1 titled “Tension between Bandidos OMG and Cossacks MC remains high in Texas” and obtained by WFAA 8, an ABC affiliate in Dallas, backs up Falco’s claims.
“Violence between members of the Bandidos OMG and the Cossacks MC has increased in Texas with no indication of diminishing,” the bulletin states. “The conflict may stem from Cossacks members refusing to pay Bandidos dues for operating in Texas and for claiming Texas as their territory by wearing the Texas bottom rocker on their vests, or ‘colors’ or ‘cuts.’”
The report goes on to detail several incidents of violence between the two clubs, including 10 Cossacks that forced a Bandido to pull over outside Lorena, Texas where he was attacked with “chains, batons, and metal pipes before stealing his motorcycle.” An FBI report detail plans for 100 Bandidos to travel to Odessa in April to start a “war” with the Cossacks, and that was followed with another FBI report about three fights between the two clubs in parts of east Texas.
And things won’t get any better between the two clubs after Sunday’s incident.
“It’s definitely on, now,” Falco told CNN. “As long as they exist, they will be at war.”