One great thing about the recently revamped Garden Grove Amphitheater is that they know how to throw an awesome punk show. This past Sunday was no exception, as the lineup for A Punk Rock Food Drive donating canned foods for charity featured such classics as JFA, Corrupted Youth, Naked Aggression, and Reagan Youth. If you happened to drive past the show or even if you were in attendance, there’s a chance that you didn’t see anything out of the ordinary for a punk show–fluorescent mohawks, studded jackets, etc. On top of that, the show was meant to benefit a good cause. However, for those with a keen eye for scene politics and factions, it was a tense night. A group of neo-nazis made their presence known during the middle of Reagan Youth’s set. One neo-nazi, who was wearing a Skrewdriver shirt (more on that later) was asked to leave the show for being belligerent. When he refused, he and his cronies started hurling racial slurs at surrounding audience members on the side of the stage while the show was going on. One of them allegedly shouted “Orange County is a white man’s town!” near the stage. This quickly escalated into a full-fledged fistfight, with almost a dozen audience members getting involved.
Some footage captured by one of our readers (thanks, Guy Incognito!) shows a view of the fight from the front of the audience.
“There was just a huge mob barreling towards me as I was trying to shoot a band,” says photographer Tyson Ellingsen. The neo-nazis, outnumbered as they were, were chased out of the show and badly beaten in the process. Venue security made sure that, once they left the venue, they weren’t able to return.
Obviously, most people would never advocate violence at a show. Civility and unity are more important in this day and age than ever before. Therefore, it is important to ask ourselves: What is the right thing to do when perpetrators of an inherently violent ideology make themselves known? It is not a simple matter of free speech but instead an issue of public safety. When any gang, white supremacist or not, makes their presence known in any space, it’s usually either to incite violence or intimidation. Take, for instance, the neo-Nazi who was initially asked to leave for wearing a Skrewdriver shirt. To those who aren’t familiar with the punk scene, it may seem like wearing a particular bands t-shirt is a trivial reason to be asked to leave a show.
Skrewdriver, however, is notorious for promoting white supremacist ideology through their music. (If anyone ever tries to tell you that they just listen to Skrewdriver because they like the music, just know that they’re lying through their teeth. They’re literally one of the most awful sounding bands in the world, even by punk standards.) If a gang which holds ethnic hatred as one of their core principles feels emboldened enough to intimidate the crowd of an all-ages show in Garden Grove, what’s to stop them from using those same tactics on a larger scale? “It’s not about beating people up or being a bully, it’s about keeping our scene safe from hate groups,” says one person who was in attendance, but wishes to remain anonymous due to their involvement in the incident.
Unfortunately, Orange County has a bit of history with neo-Nazi gangs. In the mid 80’s, a group of white supremacists infiltrated the Long Beach and Huntington Beach punk scenes and started PENI Death Squad, a racist skinhead gang. Although most of their original members are now in prison or hiding in roach motels clutching their meth pipes, it seems that their influence hasn’t completely disintegrated. Hopefully, through community awareness and vigilance, Orange County can one day keep its citizens free from racial terrorism.