VALPARAISO — Photos of a Hell’s Angel motorcycle club member with “Aryan” on his vest while ringing bells for the Salvation Army created a firestorm on social media this week.
The Times of Northwest Indiana in Munster, Ind. reported that the bikers were members of the Hell’s Angels Northwest Indiana Region Motorcycle Club. A representative of the club told the newspaper that some members wear “heritage-based” patches. Latinx bikers would wear “LATINO,” Japanese bikers wear “BUSHIDO” and white members would wear “ARYAN.” He also said that most members don’t wear them and that the issue had been blown out of proportion.
“I’d suggest to those making negative comments that maybe a little less time should be spent exercising your freedom of speech and a little more be spent to making a positive difference in our society,” the representative told the Times.
The newspaper said that the club had advertised on its Facebook page that they would be ringing bells for the Salvation Army’s annual red kettle fundraising. The club did the bell ringing at a Walmart in Valparaiso, Ind., a college town about an hour east of Chicago.
As of Monday night, the club’s Facebook page was no longer published.
Lt. Christopher Nicolai of the Porter County Salvation Army said in a written statement to the Times that the club violated the their dress code and would not be allowed to do bell ringing in the future.
Walmart told CBS2 Chicago that the bikers were asked to leave once customers complained about the patch.
“As soon as this was brought to our attention we asked the Salvation Army Bell Ringers to leave. We made the Salvation Army aware and they apologized,” the retailer’s representative told the TV station. “The Salvation Army is responsible for screening its volunteers stationed outside our stores. We’ve had a long history of supporting the Salvation Army and regret this isolated incident. We will direct further questions to the Salvation Army.”