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Municipalities may no longer ban the wearing of clothing with the Hells Angels logo

Google translated from Dutch

The ban by municipalities on the wearing of vests from banned motorcycle clubs must be lifted. The Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) has announced this on the basis of a ruling by the Supreme Court, the highest court of law.

The municipal ban, also known as the ‘color ban’, is contrary to freedom of expression, the Supreme Court ruled at the end of December. More than 200 municipalities that used such a ban must now remove it.

The municipalities arranged the ban through the General Local Ordinance (APV), rules in municipalities for public order and safety.

Freedom of speech

“Actually, the ban through the APV should never have been allowed,” says Joep Koornstra, assistant professor of constitutional and administrative law at the University of Groningen. He conducts research into the banning of organizations and is co-author of a book about the fight against banned motorcycle clubs.

“The way you dress falls under freedom of expression,” he continues. “It is not allowed for a lower government to infringe on this. That idea has been around for some time and has now been confirmed by the Supreme Court.”

The color ban, for example, applied in the municipality of Haarlem. A man was arrested there in September 2020 wearing a Hells Angels vest, which was confiscated. The man appealed against this and his case led to the decision of the Supreme Court in December.

Willem Jebbink, the man’s lawyer, also finds the Supreme Court’s judgment logical. He calls the fact that municipalities arranged the ‘color ban’ via the APV “pretty shortsighted”. “Many municipalities apparently have no taste for constitutional law.”

Prohibited motorcycle clubs

The deletion of the rule does not mean that people can go out on the street again with vests from all motorcycle clubs. There is another way in which the wearing of motorcycle club vests is prohibited: through Article 140 of the Criminal Code.

It states that organizations that are irrevocably banned may not be continued. In the Netherlands there are so far two motorcycle clubs that fall under this category: Satudarah and Bandidos.

Wearing clothing with the logos of those clubs also falls under that article, the court in Maastricht ruled last November. Then a man was given a suspended sentence of one and a half months for wearing a T-shirt, cap and belt bag with Bandidos logos.

cardigan back

Motorcycle clubs such as Hells Angels and No Surrender are banned, but not yet irrevocably. The Supreme Court has yet to consider those matters. Until a final decision has been made, clothing from those clubs may in principle be worn.

“There is no legal basis on which this is not allowed,” says lawyer Koornstra. Jebbink also thinks that the ‘colors’ can come out again. His client will probably get his vest back next week.