STOCKTON, Calif. — A weekend event in Stockton is aiming to remember and celebrate the life of one of the founding members of the notorious Hells Angels motorcycle club.
On Saturday a funeral service for Ralph Hubert Barger, known as Sonny, will be held at Stockton's 99 Speedway. Barger, who died of cancer at the age of 83 in June, launched Oakland's chapter of the Hells Angels and is credited with moving the gang international.
The invite-only event, planned over the course of the past three months, is expected to draw crowds of up to 8,000 guests, according to Tony Noceti, the president of the Noecti Group which runs the Stockton 99 Speedway.
"We're trying to keep the numbers around 8,000 coming out here," Noceti told ABC10. "We know Mr. Barger had a lot of friends throughout the world, but again, you know, we don't want a massive crowd of 30,000 people here."
In addition to live streaming the service online and requiring an RSVP to enter, Noceti says only some representatives from each Hells Angels chapter will be on-site at the funeral in an effort to limit crowds.
Hells Angels is one of more than 300 organizations defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as an "outlaw motorcycle gang." According to the DOJ, members of the gang use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises ranging from violent crimes to weapons and drug trafficking.
According to Noceti, limiting crowds will also help limit the chances of any violence at the event. He says that security in and around the funeral for the biker gang figurehead will be tight.
"We've had multiple meetings with law enforcement and councilmen and supervisors and CHP and Caltrans, so we're moving forward," Noceti said. "We have traffic plans put in place, law enforcement is going to be around the area. We have huge security plans here; screening, you know, wanding, we're checking for weapons. "
An Eventbrite page for the funeral says that no weapons or drugs will be allowed at the service and that security will be on-site to enforce those measures through searching and metal detecting all guests.
The page also says that those who disrupt the event will be escorted off property and that designated motorcycle club representatives are responsible for any disruptive behavior by their members and will assume any responsibility.
"We want this to be a very somber, joyful event, sending Mr. Barger off," Noceti said. "To us, it's very legendary. He was a very legendary person, and we're having it here at a legendary speedway also."
Noceti says that attendees are encouraged to bring a canned food item or toys to be donated to local nonprofits. He believes the gang has changed in recent years and does not anticipate violence at the Saturday service.
"A lot of the folks are business people, attorneys, doctors, I mean, they're working people like us. They put their pants on one leg at a time. I'm guaranteed by the Oakland chapter that we won't have problems," Noceti said. "They're not just going to run around town here and create havoc you know, that's not our theme here. This is the memorial for Sonny Barger-- a celebration of life."
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