They were there to show their support for children testifying as victims of abuse at family court hearings.
The bikers’ mission is to provide a sense of security and empowerment to abused children, a man who goes by the road moniker Mr. Clean, said.
The 47-year-old New Gloucester resident is president of the Maine Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse.
The motto of the global group is: “No child deserves to live in fear.”
The children in court Thursday had been “adopted” into the Bikers Against Child Abuse family, meaning children have been assigned two primary protectors and get their own leather vest with a patch sewed on the back and are assigned “road names,” like Mr. Clean.
As a member of the family, that child can make a phone call day or night that will be answered by someone they know will be looking out for them if they’re feeling frightened, Clean said.
“And then we help them through the process,” he said. “We’re there for emotional support, physical support, whatever they need to feel empowered to be able to stand up and do what’s right.”
Most abuse cases are thrown out of court “because the child feels intimidated, they can’t testify, they won’t testify, they’re scared,” he said.
“So, what we do is guide them through that process of having their family there with them so they can be empowered to stand up and say what needs to be said,” he said.
The child’s two primary protectors often accompany them into the courtroom, as they did Thursday. In some cases, the judge may allow one of the primaries to sit by the child’s side on the witness stand when that child has to testify. Before the pandemic, a group of members might have appeared in the courtroom as they did in a 2018 case in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn.
“And when you actually see that firsthand,” Clean said, “There is nothing like it. You’re actually in the right place, doing the right thing.”
Some judges won’t allow bikers to wear their vests in the courtroom, so they are made reversible and can be turned inside out.
Although Bikers Against Child Abuse has a website through which families can reach out on behalf of an abused family member, sometimes case counselors will recommend the group for support and help connect the family with them, Clean said.
They represent children of all ages: infants through 18-year-olds. Some become members of the club after they turn 18 and provide the support they got to others.
The group doesn’t only show their support at the courthouse, Clean said.
They will escort the child to the courthouse and home again. Sometimes the child will ride on one of the bikes.
They also throw parties for their adoptees, including at Christmas.
“A lot of times in the abused situations they’re in, they might not have Christmas,” Clean said.
They also make sure the children have birthday parties or they will visit them and drop off cards, “that tells them that we’re there for them.”