The Hells Angels, a notorious motorcycle club with members around the world, held a memorial ride Thursday for Robert Donald Peterson, a 74-year-old former member of the club who recently died and had lived in the Oshawa area.
The ride began at 11 a.m. and departed from Davis Drive in Newmarket. The estimated 800-plus riders travelled down Highway 404 to a destination in Toronto around Carlaw and Eastern avenues.
Earlier in the morning, prior to the run, patched members of the Hells Angels along with many other motorcycle clubs from across Canada gathered at a staging area just off Highway 404 near Davis Drive at a business park in an industrial area.
Hugs, high-fives and fist-bumps greeted heavily tattooed bikers as they arrived at the location. The group seemed to be mostly between the ages of 40 to 60 years old, with a smattering of 20- and 30-somethings rounding out the attendance.
There was a heavy police presence with officers milling about across the street from the location, wielding cameras and collecting information as a gathering of this size can be a boon for police monitoring and investigating the motorcycle clubs, as the Hells Angels is considered a criminal organization by the province of Ontario.
There were different police departments from across Canada on site to watch and gather intelligence on members. A few of the officers could be heard discussing with each other the names and home provinces of the bikers they knew as they spotted them in the crowd and upon their arrival at their gathering point.
Lenny Hochberg, a lawyer for the Hells Angels and a liaison between the club and police forces, told BarrieToday at the scene that the ride was “memorializing a legend from the biker community."
“Donny (Petersen) was a member of bike clubs for decades and was an author and wrote many books on the mechanics of the Harley-Davidson," he said.
As the ride began, onlookers gathered at intersections in Newmarket and overpasses along Highway 404 to catch a glimpse of the infamous group with its unmistakable death’s head patch.
Traffic was light on the highway and the bikers clumped together with their respective club members by province of origin and by their many different clubs.
The roar of the motorcycles could be heard for 10 minutes as they all passed along the route, heading for Toronto, with police cars stationed on the shoulder of the road at each interchange, monitoring the members as they rode by. Many obeyed traffic laws while some weaved in and out, speeding around cars and even between vehicles in one instance just south of Newmarket.
The Hells Angels members are also attending a national event this weekend in the Brooklin area of Durham Region.
Police advised the public to stay clear of the riders and to not interact with them.