October 3rd, 2007
“A white supremacist group comes to Portland to celebrate its 20th anniversary.”
If you’ve never heard of Hammerskin Nation, it’s fair to say the group coming to Portland this weekend for a three-day music festival to celebrate its 20th anniversary is about as racist as they get.
The group’s website boasts Hammerskin Nation plans to host at least 100 people at an undisclosed Portland location for Hammerfest 2007 from Friday to Sunday, Oct. 5-7.
Hammerskin Nation didn’t return WW’s email request for an interview, but a visit to hammerskins.net reveals that its members advocate “white power and the preservation of the white race.” The group, which [boneheads] started 20 years ago in Dallas, Texas as the Confederate Hammerskins, concentrates its hatred on Jews and people of color, sexual minorities and, most recently, immigrants and people of Middle Eastern descent.
Portland’s Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and Fascism, an activist group started last month in response to Hammerfest, places Hammerskin Nation in the “gray area” between a regular street gang and a political organization.
Despite its liberal reputation, Portland has had patches of support for white supremacy, spawning its own murderous white-power history with the 1988 bludgeoning death of Ethiopian immigrant Mulugeta Seraw at the hands of [boneheads], and leading to the establishment of its own white supremacist group in the mid 1990s—Volksfront.
Portland State University sociology prof Randy Blazak, chair of the Portland-based Coalition Against Hate Crimes, would be surprised if Volksfront’s card-carrying members topped 50.
“They’re probably getting smaller all the time,” he says.
Blazak says Hammerskin Nation might have picked Portland for its event because groups like it have long looked to the region for the so-called “Northwest Imperative.” The imperative is the two-decade-old idea started by the white supremacist group Aryan Nations that Oregon, Washington and Idaho will someday secede to create an autonomous Aryan homeland.
But the more likely practical reason, says Blazak, is that Volksfront invited them. Blazak says Hammerskin Nation and Volksfront are essentially the same organization. “They’ve been partnering up for a couple of years now,” he adds.
Volksfront also didn’t respond to WW’s email request for an interview.
Portland police are gearing up for Hammerfest ’07, says police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz, though he won’t say what exactly their action plan is. But Schmautz does say police “will take appropriate action,” including arrest if merited, if one of the groups “advocate a crime.”
Four years ago, two men whom prosecutors believed were associated with Hammerskin Nation were convicted for attacking a black teenager before an underground rock concert in Hillsboro. The two men were sentenced to a year in prison.
This Saturday, Oct. 6, a rally in opposition to Hammerfest ’07 will begin at 1 pm in Lents Park, on the corner of Southeast 92nd Avenue and Holgate Boulevard.
“In my mind, this isn’t about direct opposition or response to these hate mongers,” says Jonathan Shields with the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and Fascism, the group putting on the rally. “It’s really about community building.”
Note that while the Hammerskins’ 20th anniversary celebrations have generated some minor media coverage in Portland (US), the fact that next week in Melbourne (Orstraya) a similar-sized grouping of boneheads is expected to gather has elicited not a single skerrick of interest from the corporate / state media. This despite the fact that there has been a recent upsurge in anti-Semitic activity in Melbourne, that the gig is being organised by the local Hammerskins franchise in conjunction with another neo-Nazi network, Blood & Honour, that is banned in Germany and Spain, that the gig is likely to be the very last one for Fortress, one of the premiere neo-Nazi skinhead bands of the last decade (whose hometown happens to be Melbourne), that one of the bands scheduled to play the Portland gig, Blood Red Eagle, comes from Newcastle, NSW and played at last year’s Ian Stuart Donaldson memorial gig at The Birmingham Hotel in Fitzroy, that a foreign group of neo-Nazis is scheduled to play the gig, or even that just a few weeks ago The Age ran an article about international neo-Nazi muzak networks (Andrew McCathie, ‘Neo-Nazis use music to spread vicious message’, September 8, 2007).
See also : Assaf Uni, ’17 years after German reunification, xenophobia renews East-West divide’, Ha’aretz, October 2, 2007 (“BERLIN – Without knowing it, the three Greek citizens who stopped for gas last week in the east Berlin borough of Pankow crossed a virtual line separating the city’s safe areas for foreigners and the dangerous ones. The three – two men and a woman – were attacked in the gas station by a group of [boneheads] who beat and kicked them, shouting abuses. The men had to be hospitalized…”); Intelligence Report, No.127, Fall 2007; for light relief, ‘The Oh-Really Factor: Fox ‘Expert’ Decries Bogus Lesbian Gangs’ by Susy Buchanan and David Holthouse is an absolute corker!