In the early 1970’s, a mandatory helmet use bill was first introduced in North Dakota legislatiure. That bill brought the motorcycle community together. To promote “Educate not Legislate” mission in ND. At that same time, Easyriders Magazine and a few supportive groups formed a new national organization named ABATE, standing for “A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments”. Presently, depending on the state, the letters stand for “American Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education”, or American Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments”. Whatever the name, all ABATE organizations around the country share the same common concerns and goals.
History of ABATE in America
How it all started.
Originally published in the October 1971 issue of Easyriders Magazine
You, as an individual, can stand on your roof-top shouting to the world about how unjust, how stupid, and how unconstitutional some of the recently passed, or pending, bike laws are - but all you will accomplish is to get yourself arrested for disturbing the peace.
Individual bike clubs can go before city councils, state legislatures, and congressional committees, but as single clubs, and unprofessional at the game of politics, their efforts are usually futile. Scattered, unorganized, individual efforts have little if any effect against the power structure - it’s like hunting big game with a bolt-action .22 rifle. It takes numbers to command respect, to be heard over the noise created by the anti-bikers, and worse, the anti-chopper forces. The major problem is not any particular anti-bike movement or organization - the problem is that the people who make the laws are people who know nothing about bikes. The little old lady writes her congressman and complains. There is no one offering rebuttal-intelligent, professional rebuttal-to her unfair charges. The congressman, who doesn’t hear any arguments against what the old lady said, but does want to please everybody and does want to get elected again, introduces a bill to ban whatever was bugging the old lady. The bikers in the area don’t see the small item, buried in the back of the newspaper along with the hemorrhoid cures, announcing the proposed law for all bikes to have roll bars. Since no one sees it, no rebuttal is offered, and the law is passed. Or if it is seen, and a club or two protest, it needs to be a protest that will be heard. It needs to be a organized and professional protest, or the end result could be the law is still passed.
An oversimplification, yes. But that basically is the problem broken down into its simplest terms.We need a national organization of bikers. An organization united together in a common endeavor, and in sufficient numbers to be heard in Washington, D.C., in the state legislatures, and even down to the city councils.We must offer strong, organized rebuttal to all unfair legislation, no matter what the level. To stop or modify an unfair law in one state is to stop or impede it in another. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong, and only constant, relentless pressure will stop the trend against bikes. Today it might be Arizona, but tomorrow it might be North Dakota. We must start now to put a stop to bad laws. We must educate the people who make the laws. We must present our side of the story, and we must present it from a position of strength, and in a professional, dignified manner. Already the Government has indicated they are going to press for national custom bike laws (“Safety Standards”) for, you guessed it, our safety. The Department of Transportation has already issued printed warnings against the “danger” of extended front ends, lack of front-wheel brakes, “and other hazardous features of customized motorcycles.”We’re not saying they are all wrong-nobody is all wrong. But what we are saying is that we, us, you and I, bike riders. Chopper builders, chopper manufacturers, everyone with an interest in the future of bikes, must present our side, we must see to it that any laws that are passed are just. We must present our case and defend it vigorously.What can you do? Join the National Custom Cycle Association (NCCA). Let’s get together in a mass, so that our voice means something, has the weight and strength of numbers.
History of ABATE in America How it all started cont.
We are off and running, after a slight delay caused by having to change the name of our organization. It was discovered at the last moment that the NCCA name was not available for use as a non-profit corporate name-the initials being too similar to those of another corporate name.So, as long as we had to create a new name for the organization, it was decided to create a name with letters that spelled a word describing the organization’s purpose. It was a bitch to do, let me tell you -try it some time. After much hassle, we came up with ABATE (which means to put an end to; to reduce in degree or intensity; to beat down; to decrease in force or intensity).
The letters stand for A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian (i.e., strict control by coercive measures; completely regulated by the state) Enactments (i.e. to make (as a bill) into law)
A mouthful, to be sure, but it lays it all out in front of God & everybody, exactly why the brotherhood was formed-to protect individual freedom of the road. Our mission is positive. We want to educate the lawmakers, to give them our side of the story, before laws are enacted, & we are devoted to working aggressively toward the abatement of all unfair, unjustified, arbitrary anti-bike laws everywhere. Our insignia is a no-nonsense, uptight eagle (see above) that represents our firm, no-bullshit, resolved to get the job done. Now, not tomorrow. We all know what our problems are, so let’s get it on, rather than merely sitting around on our asses complaining about them.
The History of ABATE the Organization
Back in June of 1971, a new and exciting motorcycle publication was introduced--EASYRIDERS--a motorcycle magazine for the entertainment of adult bikers. This came into existence by the hard work of Lou Kimzey, the Editor, along with the owner of Paisano Publications. Along with Lou were Mil (Hog Expert) Blair, Editor-at-Large, and Joe Teresi, Senior Editor. Joe was the one who came up with the needed funding to get things running smoothly. He was owner of D&D Distributor, later known as Jammer. About the same time that EASYRIDERS got underway an organization by the name of N.C.C.S.I. (National Custom Cycle Safety Institute) got going. Joe Teresi was Vice President of this group. This organization was for manufacturers and distributors. Their main function-was to come out with their own safety standards for custom parts. They concentrated mainly on custom front ends and frames with raked necks. They are credited for keeping a lot of junk off the market and were able to keep Big Brother at arm’s length. In Issue No. 3, October 1971, EASYRIDERS started a non-profit organization just for bikers. It was called NCCA (National Custom Cycle Association). At the time, dues were $3 for a one-year membership. One must keep in mind that back in 1971 no other motorcycle magazine except Roger Hall’s “Road Rider” was even giving an inch of space to anti-bike legislation. Yet Lou Kimzey saw fit to take on the extra burden of starting a motorcycle rights organization.
It wasn’t long until Lou changed the NCCA to ABATE (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments). Lou came about the Eagle logo in an old civil war publication. The eagle is one of the largest birds, and a strong flier. It has long been used as a sign of power, courage, and freedom. The American Bald Eagle is not only our logo but it is the official emblem of the United States. Its picture is on the Great Seal of the U.S., the President’s flag, some coins and paper money. Our logo with the 13 star shield is truly worthy of our cause, and our founder foresight. In early 1972, Keith Ball arrived on the scene at EASYRIDERS. He became Associate Editor of EASYRIDERS and Director of ABATE. Through the work of Keith and the guidance of Lou, ABATE started area coordinators in different states to help organize bikers so that they could better represent ABATE on the local level. This also helped form a better line of communication. From this mushroomed a sophisticated network of state and county chapters.
It should be noted that the little funds that ABATE had in the early days went to hiring an engineering firm to determine whether a raked front end or an extended front end was safe. This resulted in two lengthy documented reports, complete with engineering drawings that established proof that they were safe. This allowed bikers to fight in court “unsafe vehicle” tickets with scientific facts--not just opinions. EASYRIDERS, on behalf of ABATE, also picked up the tab on a test case concerning an extended front end being unsafe. From 1971-1974 most of ABATE’s efforts went into fighting such laws. Had it not been for the efforts of ABATE-EASYRIDERS in the early 1970s, choppers would have been outlawed.
In March of 1977, ABATE, through the help of the staff at EASYRIDERS, held a State Coordinators meeting in Daytona, Florida. It was decided as a matter of policy that ABATE, nationwide, as a lobbying organization would discourage back patches on cut-offs. This was decided as necessary in order not to be misjudged as a “club,” either by outlaw groups, police, or Joe Citizen. At this meeting it was also decided that it was about time ABATE got organized, with a charter, bylaws, etc. Nominations were held, and five State Coordinators were elected as a steering committee to take ideas from all the members and chapters, and boil the results down to a charter and bylaws. Fuzzy Davy from ABATE of Virginia was elected spokesman of the steering committee along with Donna Oaks from ABATE of Kansas, Russell Davis (Padre) from ABATE of Pennsylvania, Wanda Hummell from ABATE of Indiana, John (Rogue) Herlihy from ABATE of Connecticut. A meeting was set up for Labor Day at the second national ABATE get-together in Lake Perry, Kansas. This gave the new steering committee seven months to get everything together. At the Kansas meeting, Lou Kimzey could not make it because of a sudden illness. In his place he sent Keith Ball, Joe Teresi, Pat Coughlin, a union organizer, and Ron Roliff, business agent of the M.M.A. A hall was rented by EASYRIDERS so that a professional meeting could be conducted. At this meeting a proposal for a new national organization was presented by the people from EASYRIDERS. In this proposal was a five- member board of directors. A problem arose when it was learned that none of the board would be made up of any of the state coordinators or any ABATE people, but would be composed of people from California, led by Ron Roliff of the M.M.A. This intimidated a lot of hard working ABATE people. Also, none of the recommendations of the ABATE steering committee were considered.
After a lot of in-fighting, the state coordinators were asked to send what they thought should be changed and to submit their ideas to Lou Kimzey. Lou had sent around a letter explaining that he was sorry that he had missed the meeting in Kansas and that he was scheduling a meeting in Sacramento in October 1977. Lou paid the air fares of the steering committee members (5), put them up in a hotel, and then attempted to explain how and why things had gotten out of hand. Unfortunately, ABATE people who had not been invited to this meeting provoked uncalled-for attacks against Lou and EASYRIDERS. Lou had tolerated a lot of mud slinging concerning forming a national organization; thus he stated to the people attending the meeting that he and EASYRIDERS were relinquishing the organization to the people attending the meeting in Sacramento.
Out of this mess two national organizations were formed: one in Sacramento; the other in Washington, D.C.; the latter being formed by all the state ABATE organizations. In March of 1978, ABATE chapters held another meeting in Daytona. The Sacramento people sent Pat Coughlin with another proposal. It was rejected by the ABATE organizations attending. ‘At this meeting the ABATE chapters were told that the Sacramento group was not going to change its name (National ABATE) and was going to go on doing business as usual. It was decided that the D.C. base national that was formed by the state organizations should be dissolved, thus doing away with a lot of the hassles taking up everybody’s time, and that the states should get back to doing the business they were formed to do--fight state anti- motorcycle legislation.
ABATE formed five regions in the country, each region having about l0 states. Each region has a Regional Coordinator who coordinates information between the state ABATE organizations. Each ABATE state organization is now independent and on its own. Because of all the hassles of trying to form a national organization. The trust and funds needed, the probability of another attempt at forming a nation is most unlikely. In the meantime, ABATE people all over the country are taking care of business as always, and no matter what happens, they will be there taking care of business.