Pony lived through the punk vs. skin brawls in Minneapolis in the late eighties. Punks and skins stood up together against fascist groups and outright nazis, and booted them out of our town. Ya’d think that punks would always stand against racism and racist behavior, but…well, read on.
Apathy in the UK
the rise of the fascist movement within the UK punk scene and the apathy of the punks to do anything about it.
No, the title is not a not mistake, it seems to be the coming reality around England these days. The last few years at ‘Rebellion’, the biggest UK punk fest, has really made me wake up. I have never seen so many people walking around with “screwdriver” shirts and no one ever says a word about it.
Year after year there seems to be more and more of these nazi’s showing up. They feel accepted just because they go unchallenged.
Not too long ago at a Cockney Rejects gig a young lad came up to a group of us outside, on his shirt was a swastika and German eagle. When it was noticed by the group he was told that in no way was he welcome to stay at the gig. He quickly left only to return about an hour later, after a change of shirt and came over to apologize. He said he was confused as he really didn’t think he would offend us with that T-shirt. What could have ever given him the idea that it would be accepted????
Later that same night after the Rejects had finished their set an explosion of fighting happened. There were nazi’s among us that we were not aware of. They had spotted a young SHARP Skin in the crowd with an Oppressed patch on his jacket. They attacked him saying he had “No right to wear the Skinhead look while having that ‘bands’ patch on his coat” The punks and sharp skins jumped straight in and suddenly the whole place had erupted!
Eventually the bouncers waded in and grabbed the nazi boneheads and threw them out of the venue. And yes they are boneheads, not skinheads! Real skinheads know the roots of their scene come from the Jamaican culture and Reggae music.
I wandered outside after making certain that no one was hurt, and besides a few scratches everyone was fine; just pissed off that they(nazi skins) had been at the gig all night and had attacked a friend. Out front I found all the boneheads still there and arguing with another group of punks. One guy kept offering to go them around the corner and settle it but they refused saying that if they went away from where the bouncers were that 20 of his friends would jump them. They were obviously scared at this point, even too scared to leave the safety of the bouncers standing at the door.
When they finally started to move off down the street of course they were followed and a second fight started nearly a block away. One of them, whom I had seen inside punching a punk in the head, held his hands up straight away professing that he did not want to fight, or want any further trouble, and that he was injured (he did have a brace on his hand, even though that didn’t stop him inside). They were not even out numbered, they just didn’t know that most of the punks at the gig were too drunk or didn’t want to be involved because they are apolitical. The main tough guy nazi did get a kicking. Then they managed to run back up the street and get behind some bouncers at a different club. This time though it was a big joke, as the bouncers the nazi, white power boneheads ran to for help were Black and Asian men. Who told us that they would love nothing more than to hand them over, but they would loose their jobs if they did. The nazi’s were then taunted till the police got there, and then got arrested. The bouncers at both clubs came on our side and said all the trouble was from them.
We have since been told that one of them actually had his jaw broken that night, and is trying to get some of his right-wing mates to find the guys that did it. It also turns out that he used to be the security for screwdriver.
That night really brought me back to the 80’s while I was back in Minneapolis chasing nazi wankers through the streets. The thing is, back then we actually pushed them right out of our scene and made it very clear that they were not welcome at any of our gigs ever. I have been told it was the same over here in the 80’s with these boneheads trying to wreck the punk scene, and they did fight them off. I have also been told they tried to rise again in the 90’s (I didn’t move here till 98) and again they were sent packing.
But something seems to have happened, we all got tired of hearing politics at every gig and bands were told over and over to ‘stop preaching to the converted’. And somewhere along the line the message of Anti-racism just disappeared. Well guess what punk without politics is? IT’S JUST BLOODY POP!
And how political is being anti-racist? Seems like more of a moral issue than a political one any ways. To me it seems like every time the economic state of things takes a dip, these nazi morons seem to try to creep back onto our scene, do they really think we are stupid enough to blame immigrants, or anyone else besides the banks and governments for the hard times we are all in, in these days of recession??? Do we really have to relive the ’80s all over again?
Before the Cockney Rejects gig happened several gigs in my area have had small groups of boneheads showing up. Each time a small group of older punks have explained that they are not wanted or welcome and were shown the door. It has never been the same people and their groups are generally between 4-8. I was talking to one of the younger punks after one group was shown the way out and he said he didn’t think it was right that we were making any one leave a gig. He stated his point of view that as a friend of the bar’s owner they were spending money on drinks and so they were helping the scene by bringing more cash in so more gigs could be put on. And as he and many of the others are a-political he didn’t see any reason why they should not just be left alone so they can can have fun too. (Really?? REALLY???)
Of course after the Rejects gig some of the younger ones have realized that if these small groups are not told they are not welcome then they will keep coming and will start meeting up and suddenly it isn’t just one small handful of nazi thugs, but there will be more than we can handle. And it is a numbers game, gangs of boneheads only want to fight when they are in higher numbers than those who they are attacking.
I along with some of the other more outspoken punks are also being called fascist, because we will not ignore what people say and do, and will not stay friends with racists.
I will not say I am sorry for standing up for what I believe in, and I will not be bullied into backing down from the argument. They say I am against free speech as I don’t believe nazi’s deserve a platform, my answer is no I am not against free speech, but I do see a difference between free speech and hate speech! To have free speech we also need to have the morals to be responsible enough to stand up against hate speech.
I do have to say it is not all doom and gloom here though. Some people do see what is going on and are taking a stand. We are starting to hear the anti-racist sermon being chanted by a few bands at gigs between songs, and how fascist are not welcome at the gigs. Gigs also are being done under the heading of Love Music Hate Racism, Punks and Skins against Racism ect.
A new group has formed on facebook called ‘Get off the Fence’ that is naming and shaming bands that are trying to say “no we are apolitical” just so they can reap the rewards of playing for the fash and then playing for the anti the week after. The problem comes from these sorts of bands playing for white power crowds then playing Anti-fash gigs as they are pulling the nazi boneheads over to our shows. ‘GOTF’ is also confronting venues that are playing both sides of the fence as well by putting on both nazi and anti gigs. People running the venues are just being told to pick a side, if you don’t then promoters and bands will refuse to continue using them to book gigs. At this point they can’t have their cake, and eat it too!
We are now planning an annual gig under the banner of ‘Get off the Fence’ for bands to come and put the message back out. The first one is planned to be late April/ early May in Derby, every year after that it will be put on in a new city. All profits are going towards Anti-Racist charities.
A CD is also in the works, with a lot of bands coming forward with tracks they would like to donate, ‘GotF’ t-shirts and badges will be done soon, and again all profits will go straight towards Anti-racist causes. The best part though is the amount of bands that are coming forward to stand up and be counted and making sure the message is loud and clear!
All of this was started by a few punks that have had enough of watching their scene threatened while no one else will do any thing. In the short time the group has been together, several pubs have now declared they will no longer allow racist bands to play at their gigs. Many bands have come forward as ‘non-political’ but will speak out against racism, and will no longer be sharing a stage with bands whose members have connections to racist organisations. Two of the biggest UK Oi bands on the scene have recently dropped support bands from their bills after racist affiliation has been pointed out to them.
It just shows that we don’t have to sit back and watch our scene get destroyed, there is something that each and every one of us can do. We are the scene and if we don’t stand up for it who will?