What it was like when Hells Angels-linked bikers descended on Toronto

Hundreds of motorcyclists affiliated or connected with the Hells Angels rode the Toronto area Thursday in memory of a recently deceased member.

The procession began in Newmarket, Ontario at 9 a.m. ET and headed south on Highway 404 to Don Valley Drive before heading east on Lake Shore Boulevard East, to terminate at a location on Carlaw Avenue. The event remained peaceful.

There have been reports of bikers riding in honor of Donny Petersen.

Toronto police said at a press conference on Wednesday that they were preparing for an “unauthorized” procession of Hells Angel bikers, meaning the group did not get a permit for the event from the town.

Cyclists were riding south from Highway 404 before reaching Don Valley Parkway. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Police said the Hells Angels let them know they would be holding a memorial walk and rally in the city on Thursday in memory of one of their members.

“This procession will inevitably disrupt traffic in our city,” said the Toronto Police Service Superintendent. Scott Baptiste told reporters on Wednesday. “We have no information that they intend to do anything other than participate in the memorial ride, followed by a rally.”

Bikers finally gathered on Carlaw Avenue for a memorial rally honoring Donny Petersen. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Police said Carlaw Avenue, between Lake Shore Boulevard East and Eastern Avenue, will be closed from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday.

As they passed through Toronto, CBC News took several photos of the procession.

Police said they were monitoring the motorcade with area officers.

“We have a command post set up in the area and we are in constant communication with this group to understand exactly what they intend to do,” Baptiste said.

Biker expert Peter Edwards, who has followed and reported on the Hells Angels for some time, says this is a public relations event for the biker group.

“They want to look good. They don’t want to draw attention to themselves,” the Toronto Star reporter said. The goal: “try to look strong and respectable at the same time”.

Bikers take part in a memorial rally for Hells Angels member Donny Petersen in Toronto on Thursday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
Some bikers were seen wearing T-shirts commemorating Donny Petersen. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Earlier this week, Durham Police noted the motorcycle club is an organized crime group responsible for drug and human trafficking, among other offences. Referring to the biker group as “no longer an association”, Edwards says the once racist, whites-only organization has evolved over the years and the Toronto procession will be different.

“In California, they used to be an all-white club. Now they’re not. Now they have charters in Asia. They have a lot of non-white members.”

Biker expert Peter Edwards says the Hells Angels are an “association” of “many different groups”. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“I imagine Toronto is a bit more consolidated, but there are a lot of different groups,” Edwards added.

His advice to spectators is “don’t touch the bikes”. Other than that, he doesn’t expect any problems.

Toronto Police will update the status of road closures throughout the day.

The bikers stopped in east Toronto before heading to Durham on Thursday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
A drone photo of Hells Angels bikers gathered on Eastern Avenue and Carlaw Avenue in Toronto after their procession through the city on Thursday. (Patrick Morrell/CBC News)
Toronto police said Carlaw Avenue remains closed between Eastern Avenue and Lake Shore Boulevard East. (Patrick Morrell/CBC News)