Hundreds of members of outlaw Mongols motorcycle club staying in Palm Springs this weekend

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(video) --- If you see more police on the streets of Palm Springs this weekend, it's because the notorious Mongols Motorcycle Club is coming to town.

The group will be holding a membership meeting at the Hilton hotel in Downtown Palm Springs and Palm Springs police will increase its presence in what police Lt. Frank Browning called "an abundance of caution."

Police wouldn't comment on their plans, but Browning, in a post on the social media site Nextdoor, said the department was expecting several hundred members of the Mongols to hit the streets this weekend.

"We have sought out the assistance of numerous police agencies to ensure everyone’s safety, and security remains a priority," he wrote.

The Mongols have had a contentious relationship with the law and with their rival club, the Hells Angels. They are considered an "outlaw" motorcycle club, similar to the Bandidos, Pagans and Hells Angels groups.

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The labels "outlaw" or "one percenter" among motorcycle clubs originates from the time of the 1947 Hollister Riot in Hollister, after which the American Motorcycle Association sought to distance itself from clubs participating in violence by issuing a statement claiming that 99 percent of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, while 1 percent were outlaws.

"There's a difference between biker clubs and outlaw clubs," said Thomas Barker, an expert on outlaw motorcycle clubs. "It doesn't necessarily mean they're criminal." 

Barker is a former police officer who went on to earn a PhD from Mississippi State University and taught on the subject of organized crime and motorcycle gangs at Eastern Kentucky University for 13 years.  

The label "outlaw" might now be a tell-tale sign that a motorcycle gang is involved in criminal activity, but the Mongols have had plenty of run-ins with the law over the years. 

Mongols logo with the motto "Respect few, fear none."

Mongols logo with the motto "Respect few, fear none." (Photo: Mongols Motorcycle Club)

On Jan. 18, the Department of Justice unsealed a 54-count federal indictment against 12 members and three associates of the club's chapter in Clarksville, Tennessee, which included charges of racketeering conspiracy and large-scale drug trafficking. 

In May 2017, two motorcyclists were gunned down in Riverside. One of the victims, 31-year-old James Duty of Orange, died as a result of the shooting. In a Facebook post, the Riverside Police Department identified the victim as well as others present at the scene as members of the Hells Angels, the Mongols' largest rival. The suspect in the murder, Joshua Herbert, denied being affiliated with the Mongols but was sporting the club's name as well as a "one percenter" logo tattoo on his neck.

"They're the most dangerous motorcycle group in the United States and maybe the world," Barker said, pointing to the group's expansion efforts in Asia and Australia.

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Still, Barker said, Palm Springs residents had little to worry about as long as they stayed out of the club's way, didn't take photos of the members or touch their leather vests.

"Everyday residents don't have anything to worry about," "Barker said. "Just leave 'em alone."

Staff at the Hilton in Palm Springs and the neighboring Agua Caliente Spa Resort and Casino said they've had no issues with the group since they started spending their annual retreat at the Palm Spring hotel in 2013.

"The group itself has come for many years and we've never had any issues with them," said Shannon Anderson, general manager at the Hilton. "They're quite communicative and they're actually one of our best groups."

In previous years, the Palm Springs Police Department has arrested several members of the club on felony and misdemeanor warrants as well as gun-related charges during the gathering.

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