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A Hells Angels member enjoys a risky ride near Bakersfield, Calif. 1965.Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Members of the Hells Angels hang out on a picnic table. Sonny Barger of Oakland can be seen with a bandage on his forehead, resulting from a motorcycle wreck injury. 1965.Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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A club member's old lady flips the bird while riding on the back of her man's bike en route to Bakersfield, Calif. 1965.Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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An L.A. County Sheriff searches a Hells Angels member for illegal items during a ride from San Bernardino to Bakersfield, Calif. 1965.Bill Ray/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
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Hells Angels members fight with pool cues during the Altamont Free Concert, for which the club was hired as security, in California on Dec. 6, 1969. One concertgoer was beaten and stabbed to death by a Hells Angels member during the event.John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
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A Hells Angels biker pops a wheelie while cruising through downtown Bakersfield, Calif. 1965.Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Hells Angels' old ladies sit during a rest stop on the group's ride from San Bernardino to Bakersfield, Calif. 1965.Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Two members of the Hells Angels cruise down a California highway. 1965.Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Club member "Buzzard" enjoys the open road with a female passenger on a ride from San Bernardino to Bakersfield, Calif. 1965. Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Girlfriends of the Hells Angels — one with a broken nose — hang out in the Blue Blaze Bar in Fontana, Calif. while members have a meeting in another room. 1965.Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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A Hells Angels member enjoys a game of pool in the group's clubhouse in San Bernardino, Calif. 1965. Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Members of the Hells Angels and various acquaintances loiter on a California sidewalk in 1965. Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Club members hang out in the parking lot outside of the Blackboard Cafe in Bakersfield, Calif. 1965.Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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A police officer with his dog watches a group of Hells Angels bikers as they pass on motorcycles outside the Blackboard Cafe in Bakersfield, Calif. in 1965.Bill Ray/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
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A California chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club makes the ride together on their way to Bakersfield in 1965. Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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California Hells Angels and old ladies hang out outside their clubhouse sometime in the mid-1960s.Hans G. Lehmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images
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A bearded Hells Angel waves from his bike as he and other members ride toward Bakersfield, Calif. 1965.Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Hells Angels members and their girlfriends ("old ladies") converse around a table in their clubhouse. Oakland chapter president Sonny Barger can be seen sporting a bandage on his head due to a motorcycle wreck. 1965.Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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An injured member of the club is carried out by police after getting into a brawl with security at the POP Festival in Weeley, Essex, England. Aug. 28, 1971.Sunday Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
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Hells Angels members clash with a group of anti-Vietnam protesters at the border of Berkeley and Oakland, Calif. A violent melee broke out when 35 members of the motorcycle gang broke through barricades and attacked demonstrators. Two members were arrested and a police officer suffered a broken leg in the scuffle. Oct. 16, 1965.Bettmann Collection/Getty Images
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Oakland Hells Angels founder Sonny Barger lays back as a nurse stitches him up after a crash in California. 1965.Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Police officers attempt to mediate between members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club and members of the American Motorcycle Association, who claimed the Angels disrupted their event. 1965. Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Members of the New York City Hells Angels chapter gather near their Lower East Side clubhouse at the funeral of one of their members, Jeffrey "Groover" Coffrey, killed during a fight with another gang in Cleveland. March 11, 1971. Eight would-be mourners were forced to miss the ceremony for they were seized by police March 10 on charges arising from an alleged rape.Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
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Mourners pay their respects to Jeffrey "Groover" Coffrey as his coffin is loaded onto a hearse in New York City on March 11, 1971.Bettmann/Contributor Getty Images
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A member of the Hells Angels shows off his tattoo while hanging out with other members. Circa 1960s.Wikimedia Commons
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Rocker Joan Jett poses on the bike of a Hells Angels member in New York City in November of 1985. Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images
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F.B.I. agents keep lookout outside of the Hells Angels clubhouse on East 3rd Street in Manhattan following a raid. May 2, 1985.Robert Rosamilio/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
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An F.B.I. agent leads a Hells Angels member — one of 17 arrested as part of a narcotics and weapons investigation — into a federal building for arraignment in Albany, New York on May 2, 1985.Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
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A member of the Hells Angels visits with a sick child at Emma Children's Hospital in Amsterdam. June 24, 1987. Bart Molendijk/Wikimedia Commons
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A crowd of onlookers watches as a member of the Hells Angles rides up to visit children at Emma Children's Hospital in Amsterdam. June, 24, 1987.Bart Molendijk/Wikimedia Commons
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At a press conference in California's Cuyamaca State Park, various chapter presidents address the media about a documentary film called Hells Angels Forever. The members spoke about the negative images of the club in the media and what they believed to be the federal harassment of the group. July 3, 1983.Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
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A member shows off his stomach tattoo at a rally in Peru, Ill. July 26, 2003.Scott Olson/Getty Images
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A Hells Angels member helps carve turkeys with other volunteers at St. Anthony's Foundation to help the poor in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day 2009. The club has been accused of performing such charity acts as a way of masking its illegal activities. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The roots of the Hells Angels trace back to Fontana and San Bernardino, California just after the end of World War II. Upon returning from the war, many G.I.s felt bored with the return to civilian life and longed for the brotherhood and excitement that they'd had within the military.
Various loosely organized motorcycle-riding clubs sprang up, and among these was one that took its name from a wartime flying squadron, which itself was named after the fighting aviators of a famous 1930 film: Hells Angels. However, contrary to popular belief, none of the founding members of the first Hells Angels were part of the World War II flying squadron, though squadron member Arvid Olsen did suggest the name to the club's founding members.
The group's reputation and membership grew during the 1950s, but it was during the turbulent 1960s that the Hells Angels bikers truly made a name for themselves. During this time, members of the club could often be seen sporting their "death's head" insignia on highways, in bars, and at rock concerts.
Furthermore, the Hells Angels were seen as the torchbearers of what was known as the "one percenter" motorcycle clubs, meaning that they live an outlaw lifestyle different from the other 99 percent of bikers.
This notion perhaps reached its peak in 1969 at California's infamous Altamont Speedway Free Festival when a concertgoer was stabbed to death by the Angels, who had been hired by The Rollings Stones as security to help deal with the crowd.
The victim, an 18-year-old man named Meredith Hunter, tried to rush the stage before drawing a gun. Hells Angel Alan Passaro then stepped in and stabbed Hunter, killing him. Passaro was charged with murder but ultimately acquitted, with the jury having seen footage from the concert that showed Hunter raising his gun. After Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger criticized the Angels over the incident, they plotted (unsuccessfully) to have him killed.
The stabbing came not long after California's Attorney General Thomas C. Lynch issued a report on motorcycle gangs like the Hells Angels that labeled them as dangerous to society and sparked national media interest. Likewise, films about the Angels as well as author Hunter S. Thompson's reports from inside the group helped invite more attention toward the group and Oakland president-cum-national spokesman Ralph (Sonny) Barger in particular.
Over the ensuing years, the group did not shake its violent reputation. As TIME wrote, "Many Hells Angels have clearly lived up to their lawless image — arrests and convictions for drug trafficking (especially meth), assault, weapons possession and even murder have trailed the group for decades."
As recently as 2002, three bikers were killed in a brawl between the Angels and the rival Mongols gang at a Nevada casino. And in 2016, a Hells Angels member shot a man who'd simply moved a traffic cone in front of their New York headquarters.
While the motorcycle outfit to this day remains no stranger to violent crimes, the organization maintains that the crimes committed by a few members have been unfairly portrayed by the media and law enforcement to represent the club as a whole. It's not uncommon for charters to regularly participate in various charity rides in an effort to shake the negative publicity that has followed the bikers for decades.
Police raids and headlines reporting biker fisticuffs have done little to stifle the growth of the Angels — which have hundreds of charters on every continent in the world except Antarctica, with their headquarters in New York City.
Despite the group's worldwide proliferation, becoming a patch-wearing member of the group requires more than simply riding a Harley. Interested members must be invited by a "fully-patched" member and must not be a police officer, a former police officer, or anyone who even applied to be a police officer.
There are also questions as to how race affects membership eligibility. While the overwhelmingly white club doesn't claim to be racially segregated as a whole, Sonny Barger stated in an interview, "We probably have enough racist members that no black guy is going to get in."
Whether it's a matter of race, drugs, or violence, the Hells Angels' way of life has long been one of controversy and conflict, both with the law and the norms of society as a whole. It's that commitment to living by their own rules though, for better or worse, that has captivated the public's interest in them for decades. See for yourself in the gallery above.