Police agencies in the Lower Mainland tend to pay close attention every time Hells Angels gather for one of their group rides in spring and summer.
Media outlets in the communities where the Angels and affiliated motorcycle clubs ride also tend to pay attention.
The first ride of the season was the “Screwy Ride” on April 8 in honour of a slain Angel killed 35 years ago.
As usual, there was a heavy police presence, and Postmedia News Group photojournalist Jason Payne was also there as the bikers arrived and gathered at Ocean View Cemetery in Burnaby to pay their respects.
But one photo Payne filed for the story posted on The Province website got the attention of some Chilliwack citizens and school board staff.
The photo shows two Hells Angels smiling and embracing, their patches visible on the back of their vests, along with a man smiling facing them with a vest where the end of the word “Veteran” can be seen.
That man is Chilliwack School District manager of transportation Wayne Williams.
(For copyright reasons The Progress cannot share the photo.)
Someone posted a link to the story on a local Facebook group asking: “Recognize Wayne Williams from SD#33?”
Almost all subsequent comments defended Williams, saying things like it is no one’s business what he does in his private life.
“Take this post down,” one person wrote. “Wayne is not only a hero but one of the nicest people I know.”
But someone who saw the post contacted The Progress asking why a senior school district employee was hanging out with an outlaw motorcycle club connected to drug trafficking, violence, and prostitution.
“He is the manager of facilities and transportation at the Chilliwack school district and he is openly supporting the Hells (Angels),” said one commenter on Facebook. “Chilliwack needs to know.”
The Progress contacted Williams who said, yes, it was him in the photograph. He said he rides with the Commandos Motorcycle Club, a group comprised of “active and retired Canadian Armed Forces and Allied Military Members,” according to their website.
Williams explained that their club is non-territorial and they respect all clubs and their colours. He said it was founded because it can be hard for veterans when they get out of the military brotherhood.
“We help with PTSD and those who fall through the cracks,” he said. “We honour and remember the sacrifices that our veterans have made. We welcome comradeship with like-minded clubs. If we are being respected we like to return that type of respect back.”
Asked if he understood why some parents of school kids might be concerned hearing of a senior school district staff member hanging around Hells Angels.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I mean, that’s not the intent. We are all veterans and we just respect like-minded clubs.”
He said he couldn’t speak to whether or not he considered the Hells Angels to be a criminal organization, nor if they were being unfairly labelled.
Police, government officials, and experts usually refer to the Hells Angels as a criminal organization, and while judges in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have declared them as such, no B.C. court has labelled the Angels a criminal organization in a way that has stuck.
Williams was also asked if he is friends with any Hells Angels.
“I’m an acquaintance with members from multiple clubs. We are respectful to them and they are very respectful to us. They do give us respect for serving our country.”
Williams said that the core values of the school district are very important to him and because of that, he’s decided to step away from the Commandos.
“I need to respect the school district’s core values and if there is a conflict with that, then I respect that.
“I got nothing to hide. That’s why I didn’t think nothing of it. I’m just a veteran that enjoys supporting our own veterans and I’m just trying to be respectful of anybody. I try and represent myself well and have a good character.”
Asked Monday morning if Williams was asked to step away from his motorcycle club because of the photo, Superintendent Rohan Arul-Pragasm said he did talk to Williams about the matter.
Arul-Pragasm said he discussed with Williams the district’s core values as outlined in policy.
“Wayne decided to step away from the (club) as the club rides with various motorcycle clubs across the country, and he wants to ensure he can emulate the district values, regardless of the recreational activities he participates in on the weekends.
“I am still in the process of reviewing the incident at the district level.”
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