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Ask Our Lawyer - August 2002

Q: I’ve been traveling, and I always try to hook up with fellow A.B.A.T.E. members in other states. I’ve noticed that A.B.A.T.E. seems to stand for different things in different states. What gives?

A: I've learned an iron_clad rule in my life: Ask any three A.B.A.T.E. members a question, and you'll get four different opinions. It is even so with our own name. In Ohio, Indiana, Arizona and New York, it's "American Bikers Aimed Toward Education." In Illinois, it was "A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments," but it’s now "A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education." Michigan and Utah say it's "American Bikers Aiming Toward Education." In the Ozarks, it's "Arkansas Bikers Aiming Towards Education." The "American Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education" meet in California, while the "American Bikes Aiming Toward Education," meet in Florida. The "Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Equity" calls Massachusetts home, you'll find "A Brotherhood Aiming Toward Education" in Oklahoma, and"American Bikers Active Towards Education" in Louisiana. The "Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education" calls Pennsylvania home, while the "American Bikers Active Toward Education" are in Mississippi. You'll even find the "Association of Bikers for Awareness Training and Education" in Ontario, Canada. Finally, you can find "A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments" in Maryland, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington.
The history of A.B.A.T.E. organizations began forty years ago. In the late 1960s, Easyriders Magazine, at the urging of motorcycle clubs, began working on a nationwide effort to protect the rights of bikers. In the process of defining this new movement, they came up with the acronym ABATE, which stood for “A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments.” Easyriders' choice of ABATE as an acronym was no accident. Webster defines the word abate as, "to beat down; to put an end to; to nullify; to reduce in degree or intensity." In the counter_cultural times of the late sixties, the prevailing mood was, "it is us against them", with "them" being Big Brother in all his controlling forms. The job at hand was to nullify the intrusion of government into our personal lives, with a major emphasis on eliminating mandatory helmet laws.
In its infancy, ABATE was a loose-knit organization. Memberships were sent in to and managed by Easyriders. State level activists -- along with the folks at Easyriders -- quickly realized that locally controlled organizations were needed, and the biker's rights movement began to spread as state motorcyclists' rights organizations (SMROs) started popping up around the country. Between the early 1970s and the mid-1980s, most of the SMROs we know today came into being as independent, autonomous organizations.
Many state groups formed under the name of ABATE, while others chose different acronyms such as the MMA (Modified Motorcycle Association) or NHMRO (New Hampshire Motorcyclist Rights Organization). Likewise, some of the ABATE organizations stuck with Easyriders' original meaning of A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments, while others went with variations such as American Bikers Aimed Toward Education, or A Brotherhood Active Toward Education.
As the seventies closed and the eighties opened, a lack of trust and communication between the various state organizations was still hurting the movement. The movement had begun to stagnate, and members needed to understand that they were in fact all on the same team, and that they could do a lot more by working together. In 1985, another attempt was made to bring people together. By this point in time, leaders in the biker's rights world clearly understood that maintaining the sanctity of the state groups was paramount, and no one was interested in forming a national group that would oversee the activities of the SMROs. The idea was to simply offer a forum for open communication between the SMROs in a setting where people could get to know each other and start to share ideas. That forum was the first MRF Meeting of the Minds, held in St. Louis in September of 1985, and it proved to be a defining moment in the history of biker's rights. While many of the attendees were distrustful walking in, by the end of the conference every person in attendance knew that something significant had happened.
The letters may have different interpretation, but the meaning remains the same. Let me know if you can shed some light on other interpretations of A.B.A.T.E., and we will follow up on this in a later column. Help preserve your history! You can send me your information by email at rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. <mailto:rodtaylor@abatelegal.com.>

Special thanks to Mark Buckner, the founder of Bikepac of Colorado, for much of the historical information in this column.

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: ASK OUR LAWYER, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-2850.

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