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The annual neo-Nazi skinhead rock concert known as Hammerfest will be held this Saturday in or near Boise, Idaho, where authorities say they are worried about the potential for violence at or after the event.
Hammerskin Nation, one of the largest and most-dangerous neo-Nazi skinhead groups in the United States, is sponsoring the 25th annual gathering after patching up differences with a former rival, the equally violent Vinlanders Social Club.
Both skinhead groups appear to be strengthening ties with so-called outlaw motorcycle clubs – bikers who say they are part of the “1 percent” crowd and pride themselves on a toughness that borders or crosses into criminality — according to information developed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. “We expect to see bikers at this year’s event,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow at the SPLC.
Potok also said that the location of the event reflected new strength in the region. “The fact that it’s planned for Boise suggests that Hammerskin Nation is growing stronger in the Pacific Northwest than it has been for years,” he said.
The exact location of this year’s Hammerfest hasn’t been announced and its promoters aren’t talking. Promoters are expected to use social networking sites and word of mouth to identify to location just hours before the event begins.
Jeff Basterrechea, of the Boise Police Department’s gang unit, told the Idaho Statesman that groups like Hammerskin Nation typically don’t announce the location in advance “because they believe other groups will sabotage them,” the newspaper reported. “They’re so controversial, they’ll wait until the last moment to advertise where the concert will be,” he said.
Often, militant anti-racist groups attempt to seek out white power music venues in order to prevent the bands from playing. Occasionally, violence has broken out between the so-called anti-fascists and the neo-Nazi rock enthusiasts.
Adam Park, a spokesman for the City of Boise, told the Los Angeles Times that the city already has received phone calls from citizens concerned about the white supremacy event. “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 said. “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.
Hammerskin Nation — whose members are known as Hammerskins — is a nationwide skinhead federation with six regional factions, some with multiple chapters. The regional groups are the Confederate Hammerskins, the Midland Hammerskins, the Northern Hammerskins, the Western Hammerskins, the Eastern Hammerskins and the apparently revivified Northwest Hammerskins. The group appears to have new chapters in Boise, Pennsylvania and San Diego, Calif.
Hammerfest is an opportunity for the racist gang to promote its message – with the hope of attracting young recruits – through racist skinhead music bearing a violent message directed at Jews, black and gay people, and the “Zionist Occupied Government” — the federal government, which most American neo-Nazis see as having been taken over by Jews. A flyer promoting Saturday’s event says this year’s bands will include Blue Eyed Devils, Thirteen Knots, Chaos 88, Rebel Devils and Fucc Face 88, along with “international guests not to be missed.”
The violence often associated with the Hammerskins and the white power music scene generally was brought dramatically to light early this August, when a man named Wade M. Page went on a rampage at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., where he killed six people and wounded three others before he died during a shootout with police. Page had played with a series of bands including Blue Eyed Devils and he was a recently “patched” member of the Northern Hammerskins.