Chicago (CBS) — Facebook images of bell ringers with controversial patches outside a Valparaiso Walmart have been shared almost 10,000 times.
The photos posted Friday appear to show several men wearing leather jackets, one with a Confederate flag patch and another with a patch that reads “Aryan”, while bell ringing for the Salvation Army.
The Times of Northwest Indiana reported the bell ringers in question were confirmed to be members of the Hells Angels Northwest Indiana Region Motorcycle Club.
A representative for the motorcycle club said some members may wear “heritage-based” patches but that most members do not sport them.
The representative said:
“That’s not what our clubs is about. However like all Americans, we love exercising our freedom. Sometimes freedom means you see and hear things you may not like. We accept that. The focus of today has nothing to do with freedom though. It has to do with charity and sacrificing for you community. I’d suggest to those making negative comments that maybe a little less time should be spent exercising your freedom of speech and a little more be spent to making a positive difference in our society.”
The Hells Angels NWI Region Facebook page posted that the group would be collecting donations for the Salvation Army from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday.
On Saturday, the group posted photos of their members with Santa hats next to the Salvation Army’s “Doing the Most Good” sign and buckets. One appeared to be sporting the “Aryan” patch from the viral Facebook post.
“Thank you Valparaiso for showing your support for our less fortunate neighbors,” the post read. “You helped us fill 6 buckets fulla cash! Big thanks to the Salvation Army for the opportunity to help our community.”
However, the Valparaiso Walmart staid it asked the bell ringers to leave when they learned about the volunteers’ attire.
In a statement, a Walmart spokesperson said:
“As soon as this was brought to our attention we asked the Salvation Army Bell Ringers to leave. We made the Salvation Army aware and they apologized. The Salvation Army is responsible for screening its volunteers stationed outside our stores. We’ve had a long history of supporting the Salvation Army and regret this isolated incident. We will direct further questions to the Salvation Army.”
The Porter County Salvation Army has not responded to CBS 2’s requests for comment.