The nation’s largest neo-Nazi skinhead group, Hammerskin Nation, has released posters in Idaho announcing a major white power music festival next month near Boise -- prompting statements of alarm in a state that has long fought its image as a magnet for white supremacists.
At least half a dozen phone calls and emails from concerned citizens have come in to the Boise mayor’s office, spokesman Adam Park said, but so far city administrators have no official details about the event, billed as Hammerfest 2012.
“We’ll be talking with the police and monitoring this closely to ensure that if there is an event like this, that there’s no negative repercussions from it,” Park told the Los Angeles Times.
“But in this country we have free speech rights, and if an organization, even one espousing some pretty hateful and vile beliefs, wants to put on an event, then that’s something that we have to let proceed,” he said.
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Hammerfest is one of the biggest events convened by the Hammerskin Nation, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups in the U.S., as “one of the oldest, most violent and most dominant skinhead groups in the United States.”
The organization is dedicated primarily to white power music, a metal genre of raw vocals and intense guitar tracks devoted to glorifying the white race while trashing minorities and, as one song puts it, “Commie Scum.”
The Idaho event is to feature bands such as Max Resist, Aggravated Assault and the Blue-Eyed Devils -- whose repertoire includes the song "White Victory." The poster also promises games and a "family-friendly" raffle.
Wade Michael Page, who shot six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in August before turning his gun on himself, was a skinhead guitarist who played in two white power groups. According to the SPLC, Page had become an official member of the Northern Hammerskins in October.
Northern Idaho has long been an active center for white power groups, many drawn by the Aryan Nations, which for years had its headquarters at a compound in Hayden Lake.
The compound was shut down in 2001 after human rights activists won a crippling civil lawsuit against the group, and the 20-acre property subsequently became a peace park.
Tony Stewart, co-founder of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations in Coeur d’Alene, said he has urged Boise activists opposed to the proposed Hammerskin event not to confront any festival attendees.
“That’s what they want you to do, is come and have a confrontation with them,” Stewart said in an interview. “Over the years, when the Aryan Nations was here, or when other groups have come through, when we know they’re going to have a gathering, we have a peaceful counter-function at some other location.”
When the Aryan Nations held a march through downtown Coeur d’Alene in 1998, he said, his group organized a pledge drive in which private and corporate sponsors pledged funds to the human rights group for each minute of the neo-Nazi parade.
“They only lasted 27 minutes, and we raised a total of $34,000 for that 27-minute march,” he said. Most of the money went to sponsor diversity programs in local schools, and some went to the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.
“The Aryan Nations had to watch us for a whole year distributing money to teach children diversity, [raised] off of their 27-minute march,” Stewart said.
Attempts to contact the Northwest Hammerskins, the presumed hosts of the Oct. 6 music festival, were not successful, and it was not known precisely where the event was to be held.
Sgt. Jeff Basterrechea of the Boise Police Department’s gang intelligence unit said the exact location of white power music events often is withheld until the last minute to prevent opponents from pressuring landowners to cancel the event.
“These type of events attract so much bad publicity that they’re starting to become more secretive,” he said in an interview. “They’ll wait until maybe a couple of hours before the event and then open up on their Twitter and Facebook accounts.”
He said police have not received any report that the group has applied for a permit to hold a large event on public property.
“Our biggest concern is safety,” he said. “It’s safety for the attendees and the organizers of the concert and the safety of anybody who may be protesting this type of event, because these types of events normally draw crowds of people that don’t agree with the Hammerskins' message.”
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