The Hammerskin Nation, a long-running white supremacist organization, has announced that their major “Hammerfest” national gathering will be held in Georgia this October 1st. Hammerskin organizers plan to bring several bonehead (racist “skinhead”) musical acts into Georgia, including one band travelling from Finland to play the event. White supremacist speakers are also scheduled — one of these speakers being a prominent up-and-coming leader in the white power movement. The early October event will draw Hammerskin Nation members and supporters from across the country, as well as militants from other parts of the white power movement.
The October 1st event is being promoted not only on the closed “Crew 38” site for Hammerskin Nation supporters, but also on a number of other white power forums such as the notorious Stormfront.org. This is the second time in two years that “Hammerfest” will take place in Georgia – the 2014 Hammerskin national gathering was in Georgia as well. This year’s gathering features bigger names than the 2014 event in Georgia, and will likely attract larger numbers. Expect several dozen to upward of a hundred white supremacists gathering, networking with each other, and making plans.
The Hammerskins — who are hosting the October event in Georgia — were founded in the late 1980s in Dallas, Texas. They operate as a street-level bonehead (racist “skinhead”) crew, generally organizing through the white power music scene as well as maintaining links with sectors of the broader racist movement. The first Hammerskin chapter was known as the “Confederate Hammerskins,” but as the Hammerskins grew, new regional groups such as the Northern Hammerskins were also established. These regional groups are banded together within the “Hammerskin Nation” franchise. The Hammerskin Nation website currently lists chapters not only in the US, but also in Canada, several European countries, New Zealand and Australia. Throughout their history the Hammerskins have earned a reputation using extreme violence on behalf of their cause – the best-known example would be Hammerskin member Wade Michael Page’s murder of six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012 before he killed himself.
In Georgia, there has been a presence of Confederate Hammerskins — the Hammerskin division for the Southern US — in our state for approximately a quarter century, although membership numbers have fluctuated. For long stretches, the Hammerskin presence in Georgia has been maintained by small numbers. Georgia Hammerskins are able to host national gatherings in our state in part because they can utilize resources from other parts of white power movement in our region, and also because they have the support of the Hammerskin Nation as a whole when hosting the crew’s annual national gathering.
The October 1st Event in Georgia: Musical Acts
A flyer currently being circulated online for the October 1st event features the names of four racist rock acts: Definite Hate, Beer Hall Putsch, Ironwill, and Hate Your Neighbors. Posting this flyer online, Georgia Hammerskin prospect Jason Reeves (writing as “Jason POTN” – “POTN” standing for “Prospect of the [Hammerskin] Nation”) added the following: “Top band from Finland will be headlining. To prevent them from being denied entry the band name is being withheld for now.”
Flyer for Hammerfest 2016, headlining act not mentioned.
While Reeves did not disclose the name of the “top band from Finland” slated to play the event, National Socialist Movement member Butch Urban has been more explicit when posting on Stormfront about the gathering. In a post promoting Hammerfest that otherwise matches the details supplied by Hammerskin members, Urban (as “Butch-88”) wrote: “Headlining band is Mistreat from Finland.” In a different thread on Stormfront about this event, the user “BloodandHonourGeorgia” (another online handle used by Jason Reeves) contributed to discussion by linking to Mistreat’s song “We’re Ready” on Youtube. It therefore seems likely that Mistreat are the “top band from Finland” on the bill.
Mistreat are one the better-known white power musical acts from Finland, with a history in the racist “Rock Against Communism” scene that goes back to 1988. (“Rock Against Communism” has been a racist and far-Right musical scene from the beginning — the “RAC” label was first used by the National Front in England to promote white power acts.) Mistreat have historic links to the Hammerskin Nation, having recorded a split album with the St. Paul, Minnesota act Bound for Glory, whose main member Ed Wolbank was also a leader of the Northern Hammerskins. In 2005, Mistreat included a song titled “We Salute You, American Hammerskins” in their “Never Forgive… Never Forget” CD. The Finnish act’s appearance in Georgia would be a major draw for boneheaded aficionados of European “RAC” music.
The other major white power act scheduled to appear on October 1st is the North Carolina-based group Definite Hate. This blog has already written about Definite Hate at length, because at one stage Definite Hate was scheduled to play the evening after-party for the “Rock Stone Mountain” white power rally on April 23rd of this year. While Definite Hate eventually vanished from that event’s advertised lineup, Definite Hate is now seemingly functioning once again and determined to play Georgia. Definite Hate is a longtime Hammerskin band. The band’s old guitarist, Wade Michael Page, has been mentioned above, as the person responsible for the August 2012 mass murder at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Neither the rest of the band nor the Hammerskin Nation as a whole has ever disavowed Page’s murders. Instead, following the massacre, the Hammerskin-affiliated record label Antipathy Records held a special sale with the promotional code “WADEPAGE”.
Another band scheduled to play on October 1st is Beer Hall Putsch, an Idaho-based racist rock group. (The group name references Hitler’s coup attempt in 1923 – Hitler composed Mein Kampf while imprisoned for his role in this Putsch.) As noted in this article by antifascists in the Northwest, Beer Hall Putsch includes one of the leaders of the Northwest Hammerskins (see link.) The frontman for Beer Hall Putsch is Christopher Vertrice Lord, who was imprisoned in the mid-1990s for shooting at a synagogue in Eugene, Oregon.
The final two musical acts on the Hammerfest 2016 bill are Ironwill and Hate Your Neighbors. Ironwill has its roots in the Southern California racist rock scene, but in recent years has been based in Washington State. Ironwill was originally affiliated with the American Front, another neo-Nazi organization, but now regularly features at Hammerskin gatherings.
Hate Your Neighbors is based in Huntington Beach, California and performs songs with titles such as “Hate Crime.” Their Facebook shows the group playing in front of large Hammerskin banner.
The October 1st Event in Georgia: Speakers
The Hammerfest announcement on Stormfront has also named of two guest speakers: “Chester Doles also Matthew Heimbach from Traditionalist Workers Party.”
Of these two names, Heimbach may be the more familiar. Heimbach, currently based in Indiana, is a leader of the Traditionalist Youth Network as well as its party, the Traditionalist Worker Party. Heimbach is a white nationalist who seeks to garner support from those who feel abandoned by traditional conservatism — for Heimbach, the racially-charged populism of the Trump campaign has been a gift and an opportunity.
Matthew Heimbach is frequently cited as one of the most dynamic young leaders of the white nationalist movement in the US, often being compared to David Duke in his earlier years. The White Student Union which Heimbach tried to build while studying at Towson University in Maryland provided a template for occasional other efforts on US campuses, including Patrick Sharp’s 2013 attempt at Georgia State University. Despite his youth — Heimbach was born in 1991 — at this stage Heimbach has a lengthy resume on the white supremacist scene. On one hand, Heimbach is media savvy and attempts to rebrand white nationalist politics as something other than hateful (Heimbach would challenge our use of the term “supremacist”); on the other hand, Heimbach networks and attends events together with members of the Aryan Terror Brigade and the National Socialist Movement.
Matthew Heimbach (in red cap, facing camera and leaning forward) at March 1st Trump rally
Heimbach has been busy this year. On March 1st, Heimbach was recorded at a Trump rally in Louisville, KY, yelling at and repeatedly shoving Black protester Shiya Nwanguma. In June, the Traditionalist Worker Party attempted to rally outside the state capitol in Sacramento, CA with support from the Golden State Skinheads (a California white power group) and other white supremacists. While the white supremacists were driven back by protesters, a number of anti-racists were stabbed during the confrontation. (Funds are still needed for medical and legal support for these antifascists, give here.) Heimbach, who was not present at the Sacramento confrontation itself, nonetheless featured prominently in subsequent media coverage, as the go-to person for the Traditionalist Worker Party/“pro-white” view of the events.
Chester J. Doles of Dahlonega, GA
The second guest speaker is Chester Doles. Doles is a former Klansman who went on to lead the Georgia unit of the National Alliance, an organization that at one point was the most important neo-Nazi group in the US. (The National Alliance is nowadays in shambles.) In 2003, Doles was arrested for being a felon in possession of firearms — Doles had previously served prison time for assaulting a Black man. Many on the far-Right saw the prosecution of Doles as politically-motivated; Doles eventually pled guilty. He was released in 2008, eventually returning to white power activism. A February 2016 post on the website of the “National Alliance Reform and Restoration Group” — who are trying to pry the remainder of the National Alliance’s assets from its current chairman Will Williams — states: “We understand that [Chester] Doles had briefly joined the Williams Alliance last year but quickly dropped out and is now working with another ‘movement’ group in Georgia.” One recent comment published online under Doles’ name reads: “838… Chester J. Doles.” “838” is alphanumeric code for “H.C.H.” or “Hail Crossed Hammers,” a reference to the insignia of the Hammerskin Nation. This suggests that Doles’ involvement with the Hammerskins in Georgia may go beyond a single speaking appearance.
As well as these speakers, the event is to feature vendors from the National Socialist Movement and Antipathy Records, a music label affiliated with the Hammerskin Nation. A third vendor mentioned by Jason Reeves while promoting the event is American Defense Records. Now based in Lexington, KY, American Defense previously operated from Georgia (Athens and Savannah.) In its earlier releases of approximately a decade ago, American Defense Records portrayed itself as an anti-liberal, patriotic skinhead music label but avoided the most unambiguous signs of white supremacy. In recent years, the label has dropped any pretenses about such matters, reissuing Hammerskin-affiliated projects such as Blood in the Face plus Red White And Black on vinyl. Besides releasing records, label boss Travis David Condor is probably best known for his role in a group baseball bat/pipe assault on homeless man in 2010.
Past Hammerskin Events in Georgia and Venue
Traditionally, when it’s turn of the Georgia Hammerskins to host Hammerfest, the boneheads can be found at the Georgia Peach Oyster Bar in Draketown (near Temple) GA, approximately one hour west of Atlanta. The Georgia Peach is mentioned by name as the Hammerfest venue in an article about gathering in 2005, when the Hammerskins in Georgia hosted. According to the article, there were “approximately 100” attendees at the event that time around. (Definite Hate were mentioned as one of the major draws.)
More recently, Georgia Hammerskins organized the national gathering in 2014. Hungarian “Rock Against Communism”/Hammerskin band Vérszerződés was the main attraction that time around. While event flyers listed “Central Georgia” as the Hammerfest location, the Georgia Peach was explicitly thanked immediately after the gathering.
The Georgia Peach is not only a venue for Hammerskin events, but also for many other white supremacist events regionally. On April 23, the venue was used for an evening after-event for two white power rallies that took place earlier in the day: the National Socialist Movement rally in Rome, GA as well as a second white power event at Stone Mountain Park outside Atlanta which met determined anti-racist resistance. (At the Georgia Peach the evening before, the ragtag “Aryan Nationalist Alliance” was formally established.) The Georgia Peach, which openly advertises itself as a Klan space, has also hosted many other Klan, neo-Nazi and Aryan Nations events over the years.
The Hammerskins have not publicly announced the Georgia Peach as the venue for Hammerfest this year, but it seems likely that the space will play some role in this year’s events.
A close look at the groups and figures involved with Hammerfest 2016 reveals more than just a white power underground using music to recruit and mobilize. It also highlights the long and violent history of those involved. The white supremacists meeting and coordinating on October 1st should be prevented from furthering expanding their power and capacity for violence. Especially in the context of a newly-energized white power movement, the Hammerskins and similar groups ought to be practically opposed wherever they operate. While their numbers are small, those gathering in Georgia are some of the hardcore “true believers” of the white power movement; they should not be written off as harmless and irrelevant.
We believe that the weekend of October 1-2 is an ideal opportunity for action against white supremacist groups such as the Hammerskins or Traditionalist Worker Party nationally. If you live in a city where such a group exists, consider organizing during this time to expose their efforts. Commit to building anti-racist/anti-fascist infrastructure for the struggles ahead. Also, please circulate this story to those who may be affected by the upcoming white power gathering.
As Hammerfest approaches, Atlanta Antifascist Notes will be one source for updates and reporting. For briefer time-sensitive updates, keep your eyes on twitter.com/afainatl