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'Aryan' bell ringing controversy in Valpo goes viral

A Facebook post Friday of images from bell ringers at the Walmart in Valparaiso has gone viral. 

Images of bell ringers sporting controversial patches on leather jackets outside the Walmart in Valparaiso have caused an uproar on social media.

Tips and images shared with The Times appear to show men with leather jackets, one with a patch reading "Aryan" and another with a Confederate flag patch ringing the bell Friday for the Salvation Army.

The original Facebook post has been shared nearly 10,000 times.

The bell ringers in question were confirmed to be members of the Hell's Angels Northwest Indiana Region Motorcycle Club.

"Our worldwide multinational, multiracial motorcycle club excepts [sic] motorcyclists from all walks of life," a representative for the motorcycle club said.

The representative said some members may wear "heritage-based" patches, such as Latinos wearing "LATINO," Japanese wearing "BUSHIDO" and whites wearing "ARYAN." He also said most members do not sport these types of patches.

"That's not what our clubs [sic] is about," the representative said. "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.

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"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 Hell's Angels Northwest Indiana Region advertised their plans to bell ring on their Facebook page Friday morning. The post, including a graphic depicting the well-known red Salvation Army bucket and logos, shared that Hell's Angels members would be collecting donations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the Valparaiso Walmart.

On Saturday, the Hell's Angels posted again — this time including their own photos of members dressed in vests with patches and Santa hats next to the Salvation Army's "Doing the Most Good" sign and buckets. One appeared to be sporting the "Aryan" patch that attracted attention in the original Facebook post that went viral.

"Thank you Valparaiso for showing your support for our less fortunate neighbors," the Hell's Angels NWI Region Facebook post read. "You helped us fill 6 buckets fulla cash! Big thanks to the Salvation Army for the opportunity to help our community."

Calls and emails sent to the Porter County Salvation Army, public relations contact for the Salvation Army central territory and the Walmart media hotline were not immediately returned.

Check back at nwi.com for updates as they become available.

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