Profiles of 10 Racist Skinheads

Racist skinhead culture has long brimmed with violence and venom.

Clark Martell, 44
CHICAGO AREA SKINHEADS
In April 1987, six members of the Chicago Area Skinheads (CASH), one of the first racist skinhead gangs formed in the United States, busted into the apartment of a 20-year-old woman who'd quit the gang, and who the CASH skinheads suspected of having black friends. Once inside, the racist skinheads, including CASH founder Clark Martell, who was then 26, pistol-whipped the former skinbyrd, sprayed mace in her eyes, and painted a swastika and "Race Traitor" on her wall with her blood.

That assault came in the midst of an 18-month crime spree by Martell and 15 to 20 followers that also included assaults on six Hispanic women, swastikas painted on three synagogues, and numerous incidents of vandalism to Jewish-owned business.

Martell, who hailed from Blue Island, Ill., about 20 miles south of Chicago, was a violent neo-Nazi years before he was a skinhead gang leader. In 1979, when Martell was a member of the American Nazi Party, he was sentenced to four years in prison for attempting to firebomb the Cicero, Ill., home of a Hispanic couple and their five children. He served 30 months.

In the mid-1980s, Martell began performing around Chicago with his punk rock band Romantic Violence. Starting in 1985 or 1986, Martell passed out American Nazi Party newsletters between his band's sets, along with copies of National Socialist Skinhead magazine, for which Martell was a cartoonist. Martell corralled a following among young racist skins eager to copycat their British brethren, but his neo-Nazi recruiting drive also caught the attention of Chicago's numerous "traditional," non-racist skinheads, including a number of African Americans (according to Chicago punk lore, the city's skinhead scene was founded by black traditional skinheads).

Enjoying the advantage of vastly superior numbers, non-racist-turned-anti-racist crews such as Skinheads of Chicago (SHOC) routinely ganged up on CASH skins at shows and in the streets. "They grew out of what we are -- the punk scene -- so it's up to us to combat them," a member of the Chicago Anti-Racist Action (ARA) crew told the Chicago Tribune. "We have more responsibility than anybody else to bring them down."

By the time Martell and the other five CASH skins were arrested for the gruesome April 1987 attack on a former member, CASH had been more or less beaten into submission by Chicago's anti-racist skins. But Martell had already proven he was ahead of his time. When he first started recruiting for CASH, there were likely fewer than 200 racist skinheads in the U.S. By 1989, when he was convicted of home invasion, aggravated battery, and robbery and sentenced to 11 years in prison, there were more than 3,000.

Martell was released in 1992 after an appellate court overturned a different, prior conviction on which his lengthy sentence was based. In 1997, new Martell cartoons appeared in the racist skinhead periodical Right as Reina. That was the last the skinhead world heard of Clark Martell, though he's been neither forgiven nor forgotten by anti-racist skins in Chicago and elsewhere. "I can clearly remember the fearless leader of CASH writing all sorts of letters to punk and alternative magazines sucking up to black people once he spent about six months in [prison]," a punk rocker using the screen name SeattleTroll posted to the online punk rock discussion forum finntroll.net earlier this year. "Of course, he still got his ass kicked by every Irish SHOC skin when he got out of jail."