Argentinian Motorcylists Fight Against Discriminatory Regulations

Alleged criminal arrested for motorcycle theft, Buenos Aires, April 19, 2012, by Claudio Santisteban. Demotix.

Alleged criminal arrested for motorcycle theft, Buenos Aires, April 19, 2012, by Claudio Santisteban. Demotix.

Uniting around the slogan “People are not put a licence plate on“, motorcyclists in Argentina are protesting a new law, Resolution 224/14, which demonstrators say discriminates against them in an effort to police the roads.

Under the new law, motorcycle riders in Argentina are obligated to display their vehicle's license plate on their helmet and wear a reflective vest with the same information on their back. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in stiff fines and the loss of one's vehicle and driver's license. The new restrictions also enable cities to limit motorcycle traffic using special zones and road schedules, specific to the number of passengers riding.

Recently, local governments throughout the country have been experimenting with similar measures, probably as a populist appeal to voters, who will vote on the next president in 2015.

Marcha Motera

Demonstration of motorcycle riders in Buenos Aires.
Photo from Facebook user Javier Fo To, published with permission.

Initially, the public reaction to Resolution 224/14 was mostly positive, as most people are not affected directly by the new regulations.

At 11 Avellaneda will join the Comunity Police Task Force. 40 city halls have community centera since I ruled Emergency in Security.
Let's go for more, Daniel… I hope everything turns out well here in Almirante Brown too. We need more police on the roads.

The “Daniel” addressed in the tweet above is Daniel Scioli, governor of the province of Buenos Aires. Almirante Brown is an area of the Buenos Aires Province, located at the south of the Gran Buenos Aires urban area.

In recent years, an increase in the number of violent crimes has undermined faith in the authorities. The apparent freedom with which criminals rule the streets has led to widespread disillusionment in the police. Under these circumstances, many in the public are ready to welcome any measures to reduce crime.

Argentinians of different views about the motorcyclist law have debated the issue hotly on the Internet. On Twitter, mari.peque complains: 

People are not put a licence plate on and labeling motorcyclists as “alleged” criminals is unconstitutional.

Cristina Pérez comments:

It is difficult for me to understand that motorcyclists are protesting measures for more security. There are people who die in motorchorro attacks. Cooperation is necessary. 

Violence on the rise
On, an Internet user named Andres Peterson argued that the government should take action against “motochorros” (a criminal that uses a motorcycle to commit a robbery):  

Yesterday, motochorros entered two houses on a motorcycle, today one person was reported dead and two injured from the entry. Something is very wrong in Rosario.

Motorcyclists also demand serious measures against crime, as thieves frequently steal motorcycles to rob others, or to sell the bikes for parts. These motorcycles are abandoned and replaced with other parts, which prevents police from identifying and arresting the offenders.

PeladoMoterociclista tweets:

No to jackets, now they're not just going to steal the motorcycles, they're also going to break open our heads to take our vest and helmet!!!!!

So far, repeat offenders continue to be a problem, as police fail to address crime levels’ underlying issues, like criminals being released back into the public, where they return to a life of crime.

The lack of security that the Province of Buenos Aires is experiencing is a disaster. When will action be taken to solve this issue, seriously? Enough talk. 

“Marked like cattle”
One of the most sensitive subjects for motorcyclists is the requirement that they wear fluorescent vests with numbers printed on the back. According to the motorcyclists’ protest leaders, “the decree violated the presumption of innocence that the National Constitution establishes.” In other words, motorcyclists worry they are labeled potential criminals, just for their mode of transportation. Similar actions, moreover, have not been taken against passengers in cars, for example, which criminals also use to commit robberies and kidnappings. 

Imagen que muestra con ironía el marcado de motociclistas. Fuente: Motociudadanos

The supposed irony of labeling motorcyclists. Source: Motociudadanos. Published with permission.

On August 5, the Buenos Aires Provincial Commission for Memory — led by former prosecutor Hugo Cañón and Nobel Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel — asked the local high court to strike down as unconstitutional Decree 220/14, which granted Governor Scioli emergency powers, including the regulations laid out in Resolution 224/14. 

Regarding the new limits on motorcyclists, the Commission argues “the right to equality and non-discrimination is violated, given that the link established in the decree directly between new types of crime, insecurity, and excluded groups – where the use of motor vehicles seems to acquire a status similar to a criminal instrument – is discriminatory and unconstitutional”. 

Motorcyclists are coming together on Wednesdays at 6pm in front of the Obelisk of Buenos Aires and in other cities throughout the country. Some weekends, they leave the coast for inland towns, where police tend to enforce the new regulations more strictly, sometimes even becoming abusive toward motorcyclists. 

On social networks, motorcyclist groups have posted regular updates about the status of their claims against the government. One group even has a press office that's created several public service announcements:

Demonstrators have made other appeals, as well, like asking legal protection for individuals and civil associations, such as the Argentina Association of Motor Vehicle Users, and registering civil complaints in the Ombudsman's Office, the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism, and the Observatory of Discrimination in Radio and Television. This last agency recently concluded that the media encourages distrust in motorcyclists by using the term “”motochorro”.

Motorcyclists propose several alternatives to the new regulations against bikers, including reforms to documentation controls, procedures for arresting and inspecting suspected motorcycle thieves (currently, police only confiscate the vehicle and release the suspect), and stricter surveillance in commercial areas.

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