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Monday, 14 March 2011

Fourteen people are to appear in the Nelson District Court tomorrow following a major police operation aimed at preventing the Red Devils increasing their foothold in Nelson.

Police dogged the movements of visiting Hells Angels and other motorcyclists on their Saturday poker run, sending a clear message that new gangs are not welcome in the Nelson region.

Following on from Friday's raids, which led to the arrest of all the key Nelson members of Hells Angel offshoot the Red Devils, police stuck close to the patched gang members, their associates and supporters on the organised ride, varying from 60 to about 100 riders at various stages.

They issued 43 infringement notices and green stickered eight bikes, meaning they could be ridden home but then have to be taken off the road.

Fourteen people will appear in court tomorrow, and three have been remanded in custody until April 1.

About 350 people attended a Fight Night at the Trafalgar Centre on Saturday night which police said did not result in any incidents requiring their intervention.

They said the Hells Angels left town yesterday morning to catch a Cook Strait ferry.

The poker run cost $20 to sign up for and the proceeds were destined to go to Nelson private sports medicine and ambulance company Medimax, operated by former St John officer Maxwell Clark.

The Nelson Mail was told that the organisers of the poker run – an event in which each rider draws a card at a series of stops to make up a poker hand, with the winning hand to receive $1000 – had all been locked up after the raids at the Red Devils' headquarters and many private homes, and that there was confusion around its staging.

But it went ahead, with riders and passengers getting a briefing from a patched Hells Angel at Isel Park in Stoke before they set off for Mapua soon after noon.

They were told to expect no tolerance from the police for any traffic violations and that they should not race to catch up with other riders, should stick with the pack and observe temporary speed limits around road works.

There was a heavy police presence at Isel Park, where Nelson Bays area commander Brian McGurk mingled with the gang members and other riders, attempting to converse with them.

Hells Angel patches were prominent, with about a dozen worn. There was one man wearing a Headhunters patch and one Hells Angel also wore a Nomads patch. No other gang insignia was obvious.

None of the gang members agreed to be interviewed but one Hells Angel spoken to briefly before the ride pointed out Mr McGurk and said the heavy policing was because "that man has an illness".

He questioned the cost of the large police exercise on Friday and of Saturday's policing, saying that the money would be better spent on helping Christchurch recover.

He also suggested that there were more disgraced police in prison than Hells Angels.

"We've got 30-odd members in New Zealand and only two of them are in jail at the moment," he said.

The group, which included many Nelson motorcyclists including eight of the Black Horse Social Motorcycle Group's 14 members, went first to Mapua and gathered at both the Grossi Point reserve and at the Golden Bear Brewing Company's bar. Some bought hot food from children conducting a Christchurch earthquake fundraiser beside the bar. Many police were evident in and around Mapua and on the roads.

The run left for Kaiteriteri at 2pm, arriving to find that police cars blocked access to the store, petrol pumps and motor camp.

It left for Motueka at 3pm, with the group splitting up to take several different roads. A large contingent headed for the Moutere Inn on the inland highway, but found "closed – private function" signs at the turnoff and carried on to Appleby.

Just over the Appleby Bridge and just before their destination, the Traveller's Rest hotel, they were greeted by a large number of police, including armed offenders squad members wearing sidearms, and put through a checkpoint where they were breath-tested and had their motorcycles inspected. There were 14 police cars, some unmarked, the booze bus and a paddy wagon at that point. As well as numerous patrols following the motorcycles and cars stationed at strategic intersections, several police photographers were in action throughout the afternoon.

One middle-aged Hells Angel wearing a "vice president" badge and clearly a senior figure said he would not be interviewed because he did not trust the media to fairly and accurately report what he said.

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