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Dress Code Is Wearing on Hells Angels Leader as Fair Turns Him Away Again

George Christie Jr. considers a lawsuit after officials for the Ventura County event enforce a ban on gang attire for a second year.

August 04, 2003|Holly J. Wolcott | Times Staff Writer

For the second consecutive year, Hells Angels leader George Christie Jr. was denied entry into the Ventura County Fair for attempting to violate a controversial event policy banning gang attire and gang tattoos.

Christie, 56, arrived at the Ventura fairgrounds about 5 p.m. Saturday with his wife and three children. When he tried to buy a ticket, a fair employee told him he would first have to remove his leather Hells Angels vest and cover his club tattoo.

In an interview Sunday, Christie, the biker group's national spokesman, said he politely refused and left. The longtime Ventura resident also said he would meet with his attorneys this week to discuss suing the fair board and the Ventura Police Department.

"This is a constitutional thing for one, but it goes far beyond that," Christie said. "This is not something I take lightly or something I just do on weekends. I'm a Hells Angel 24 hours a day. I've dedicated my life to it, and I equate that to religion."

Fair officials have said Christie and other Hells Angels are welcome at the event but must not wear their club attire.

Richard Tucker, a fair events manager, said Sunday that the discussion with Christie at the fair's entrance had been anticipated and was "relatively peaceful."

Hells Angels members have long argued they are a law-abiding motorcycle club and not a gang, as alleged by police. To support that claim, Christie often refers to a local judge's ruling last year that found there was no evidence that the group was a criminal street gang.

The fairgrounds battle started last summer when Christie and other Hells Angels members were denied entry into the Seaside Park event for wearing their club vests. The club then threatened to sue the fair board.

Facing litigation, the board rescinded its dress policy earlier this year but reinstated it last month after heavy lobbying by Ventura police officials.

The board's policy bars anyone wearing clothing, visible tattoos or other articles bearing the name or insignia of a criminal street gang from entering the state-owned, 62-acre fairgrounds. The policy identifies 20 street gangs, including the Hells Angels.

In Christie's case, fair personnel on Saturday asked that he remove his black club vest -- with the trademark winged skull and the words "Hells Angels" on the back -- and cover the winged skull tattoo on his forearm.

Christie said he had notified Ventura police several days ago that he planned to attend the fair Saturday afternoon, so they were expecting him. He said he went to the fair with his family, and not other club members, to show authorities that he was not a threat, as police have alleged.

"It's the contention of the Ventura police that there is going to be some sort of spontaneous problem, some type of violence. I don't agree with that and tried to show them by going as far as taking just my family," Christie said.

With him Saturday were his wife, Nikki; the couple's 7-week-old son, Finn; Christie's 10-year-old daughter, Aubree; and his adult daughter and lawyer, Moriya Christie.

George Christie said he expected to be denied entry but wanted to make sure that was the case before meeting with his attorneys this week.

The family left the fairgrounds and walked to the nearby Hells Angels clubhouse off Ventura Avenue, Christie said.

After having dinner, Christie said he watched the fair's nighttime fireworks display from the balcony of his home.

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